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"NO CLUE!" 



4 4 



NO CLUE!" 

A Mystery Story 



BY 

JAMES HAY, JR. 

AUTHOR OF "THE WINNING CLUE," 
" THE MELWOOD MYSTERY" 




NEW YORK 

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY 
1920 



COPTBIGHT, 1920 

BT DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, INC. 



TO 
WILLIAM ( "BUCK") HAY 



2136132 ' 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTEB PAGE 

I. THE GREY ENVELOPE . . . 1 

II. THE WOMAN ON THE LAWN . < 8 

III. THE UNEXPECTED WITNESS . . 20 

IV. HASTINGS Is RETAINED ... 35 
V. THE INTERVIEW WITH MRS. BRACE 48 

VI. ACTION BY THE SHERIFF . . 62 

VII. THE HOSTILITY OF MR. SLOANE . 75 

VIII. THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY . . 91 

IX. THE BREAKING DOWN OF WEBSTER 103 

X. THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE . 122 

XI. MOTIVES REVEALED . . . . 138 

XII. HENDRICKS REPORTS . . . 151 

XIII. MRS. BRACE BEGINS . . . . 161 

XIV. MR. CROWN FORMS AN ALLIANCE 177 
XV. IN ARTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM . . 195 

XVI. THE BRIBE . . \., . . 213 

XVII. " THE WHOLE TRUTH " '...... 224 

XVIII. .THE MAN WHO RODE AWAY . 238 

XIX. "PURSUIT!" 246 

XX. DENIAL OF THE CHARGE . . 261 

XXI. " AMPLE EVIDENCE " . ... 273 



"NO CLUE!" 



THE GREY ENVELOPE 

ATHERINE BRACE walked slowly from 
I . the mantel-piece to the open window and 
back again. Within the last hour she 
had done that many times, always to halt be- 
fore the mantel and gaze at the oblong, grey 
envelope that leaned against the clock. Evi- 
dently, she regarded it as a powerful agency. 
An observer would have perceived that she saw 
tremendous things come out of it and that she 
considered them with mingled satisfaction and 
defiance. 

Her attitude, however, betrayed no hint of 
hesitation. Bather, the fixity of her gaze and 
the intensity of her mental concentration threw 
into high relief the hardness of her personality. 
She was singularly devoid of that quality which 
is generally called feminine softness. 

And she was a forceful woman. She had 
power. It was in her lean, high-shouldered, un- 
graceful figure. It was in her thin, mobile lips 



2 "NO CLUE ! " 

and her high-bridged nose with its thin, clean-cut 
nostrils. She impressed herself upon her environ- 
ment. Standing there at the mantel, her hands 
clasped behind her, she was so caught up by the 
possibilities of the future that she succeeded in 
imparting to the grey envelope an almost ani- 
mate quality. 

She became aware once more of voices in the 
next room : a man's light baritone in protest, 
followed by the taunt of her daughter's laugh. 
Although she left the mantel with lithe, swift 
step, it was with unusual deliberation that she 
opened the communicating door. 

Her voice was free of excitement when, ignor- 
ing her daughter's caller, she said: 

" Mildred, just a moment, please." 

Mildred came in and closed the door. Her 
mother, now near the window across the room, 
looked first at her and then at the grey envelope. 

" I thought," Mrs. Brace said, " you'd forgot- 
ten you were going to mail it." 

"Why didn't you mail it yourself?" The 
tone of that was cool insolence. 

Mother and daughter were strikingly alike 
hair piled high in a wide wave above the fore- 
head; black eyes too restless, but of that gleam- 
ing brilliance which heralds a refusal to grow 
old. So far, however, the daughter's features 
had not assumed an aspect of sharpness, like the 



THE GREY ENVELOPE 3 

mother's. One would have appraised the older 
woman vindictive malevolent, possibly. 

But in the younger face the mouth greatly 
softened, almost concealed, this effect of cal- 
culating hardness. Mildred Brace's lips had a 
softness of line, a vividness of colouring that 
indicated emotional depths utterly foreign to 
her mother. 

They bore themselves now as if they com- 
mented on a decision already reached, a mo- 
mentous step to which they had given immense 
consideration. 

" I didn't mail it," Mrs. Brace answered her 
daughter's query, " because I knew, if you 
mailed it, you'd do as you'd said you wanted to 
do." 

There was frank emphasis on the " said." 

" Your feet don't always follow your intelli- 
gence, you know." 

"I've been thinking about the thing," Mil- 
dred retorted, looking over her mother's shoul- 
der into the summer night. " What's the use? " 

" What's the use! " Mrs. Brace echoed, incred- 
ulous. 

" Just that." 

" We've been all over it ! You know what it 
means to you to both of us." 

They spoke in low tones, careful that the man 
in the living room should not hear. 



4 "NO CLUE!" 

"My dear mother," Mildred said, with a re- 
turn of her cool insolence, "you display a con- 
fidence hardly warranted by your and our 
man-experience." 

She yawned slightly. 

There was a harsher note in her mother's re- 

piy- 

" He can't refuse. He can't! " 

Mildred stared at the grey envelope a full 
three minutes. Mrs. Brace, wordless, showing 
no uneasiness as to the outcome, waited for her 
to speak. 

" It's no use, mother," she said at last. " We 
can't manage it him this thing. It's too late." 

The flat finality, the dreariness, of that an- 
nouncement angered the older woman. Calm- 
ness fell from her. She came away from the 
window slowly, her hands clasped tightly at her 
back, the upper part of her body bending for- 
ward a little, her thin nostrils expanding and 
contracting to the force of her hurried breath- 
ing like leaves shaken in the wind. The curl 
of her thin lips added a curious ferocity to the 
words that passed them. She spoke, only when 
her face was within a few inches of Mildred's. 

" No use! " she said contemptuously, her low- 
ered voice explosive with passion. " Why? And 
why too late? Have you no self-respect, no will, 
no firmness? Are you all jelly and " 



THE GREY ENVELOPE 5 

She got hold of herself with remarkable effec- 
tiveness, throwing off the signs of her wrath 
as suddenly as they had appeared. She retreated 
a step and laughed, without mirth. 

"Oh, well," she said, "it's your party, not 
mine, after all. But, in future, my dear, don't 
waste your time and mine in school-girl heroics." 

She completed her retreat and stood again 
at the window. Her self-restraint was, in a 
way, fiercer than her rage and it affected her 
daughter. 

" You see," she concluded, " why I didn't mail- 
it. I knew you wouldn't do the very thing you'd 
outlined." 

Mildred looked at the envelope again. The 
pause that followed was broken by the man in 
the other room. 

"Mildred," he called. 

Mrs. Brace laughed silently. Mildred, seeing 
that ridicule, recoiled. 

" What are you laughing at? " she demanded. 

Her mother pointed to the communicating 
door. 

" I was thinking of that," she said, " for life 
and," she looked toward the grey envelope, 
" the other thing." 

" I don't see " Mildred began, and checked 

herself, gazing again at the envelope. 

Her mother turned swiftly and stood looking 



6 " NO CLUE ! " 

into the night. The man called again and was 
not answered. The two women were motionless. 
There was no sound in the room, save the tick- 
ing of the clock on the mantel. Two minutes 
passed three. 

Mildred went toward the mantel, put out her 
hand, withdrew it. She became conscious of the 
excessive heat and touched her forehead with 
her handkerchief. She glanced at her mother's 
motionless figure, started to speak, closed her 
parted lips. Indecision shook her. She put out 
her hand again, picked up the envelope and 
stood tapping it against her left palm. 

Mrs. Brace, without moving, spoke at last : 

" It's a few minutes of tw r elve. If you catch 
the midnight collection, he'll get it, out there, 
by five o'clock tomorrow afternoon." 

There was another pause. 

Mildred went slowly to the door leading into 
the living room, and once more she was on the 
point of speaking. 

Mrs. Brace was drumming her fingers on the 
window ledge. The action announced plainly 
that she had finished with the situation. Mil- 
dred put her hand on the knob, pulled the door 
half-open, closed it again. 

" I've changed my mind," she said, dreariness 
still in her voice. " He can't refuse." 

Her mother made no comment. 



THE GREY ENVELOPE 7 

Mildred went into the living room. 

" Gene," she said, with that indifference of 
tone which a woman employs toward a man 
she despises, " I'm going down to mail this." 

"Well, I'll swear!" he quarrelled sullenly. 
" Been in there all this time writing to him ! " 

" Yes ! Look at it ! " she taunted viciously, 
and waved the envelope before his eyes. 
" Sloanehurst ! " 

Taking up his hat, he went with her to the 
elevator. 



II 

THE WOMAN ON THE LAWN 

MR, JEFFERSON HASTINGS, unsus- 
pecting that he was about to be con- 
fronted with the most brutal crime in 
all his experience, regretted having come to 
" Sloanehurst." He disapproved of himself un- 
reservedly. Clad in an ample, antique night- 
shirt, he stood at a window of the guest-room 
assigned to him and gazed over the steel rims 
of his spectacles into the hot, rainy night. His 
real vision, however, made no attempt to pierce 
the outer darkness. His eyes were turned in- 
ward, upon himself, in derision of his behaviour 
during the past three hours. 

A kindly, reticent gentleman, who looked 
much older than his fifty-three years, he made 
it his habit to listen rather than talk. His wide 
fame as a criminologist and consulting detective 
had implanted no egotism in him. He abhorred 
the spotlight. 

But tonight Judge Wilton, by skilful use of 
query, suggestion and reminder, had tempted 



THE WOMAN ON THE LAWN 9 

him into talking " shop." He had been lured 
into the role of monologuist for the benefit of 
his host, Arthur Sloane. He had talked bril- 
liantly, at length, in detail, holding his three 
hearers in spellbound and fascinated interest 
while he discoursed on crimes which he had 
probed and criminals whom he had known. 

Not that he thought he had talked brilliantly ! 
By no means! He was convinced that nine- 
tenths of the interest manifested in his remarks 
had been dictated by politeness. Old Hastings 
was just that sort of person; he discounted him- 
self. He was in earnest, therefore, in his pres- 
ent self-denunciation. He sighed, remembering 
the volume of his discourse, the awful length of 
time in which he had monopolized the conver- 
sation. 

But his modesty was not his only admirable 
characteristic. He had, also, a dependable sense 
of humour. It came to his relief now he 
thought of his host, a chuckle throttling the be- 
ginnings of a second sigh deep down in his 
throat. 

This was not the first time that Arthur 
Broughton Sloane had provoked a chuckle, al- 
though, for him, life was a house of terror, a 
torture chamber constructed with fiendish in- 
genuity. Mr. Sloane suffered from "nerves." 
He was spending his declining years in the ardu- 



10 " NO CLUE ! " 

ous but surprisingly succcessful task of being 
wretched, irritable and ill-at-ease. 

The variety of his agonies was equalled only 
by the alacrity with which he tested every cure 
or remedy of which he happened to hear. He 
agreed enthusiastically with his expensive physi- 
cians that he was neurasthenic, psychasthenic 
and neurotic. 

His eyes were weak; his voice was weak; his 
spirit was weak. He shivered all day with ter- 
ror at the idea of not sleeping at night. Every 
evening he quivered with horror at the thought 
of not waking up next morning. And yet, de- 
spite these absorbing, although not entirely de- 
lightful, preoccupations, Mr. Sloane was not 
without an object in life. 

In fact, he had two objects in life: the hap- 
piness of his daughter, Lucille, and the study of 
crime and criminals. The latter interest had 
brought Hastings to the Sloane country home 
in Virginia. Judge Wilton, an old friend of 
the wrecked and wealthy Mr. Sloane, had met 
the detective on the street in Washington and 
urged : 

"Go down to Sloanehurst and spend Satur- 
day night. I'll be there when you arrive. 
Sloane' s got his mind set on seeing you; and 
you won't regret it. His library on criminology 
will be a revelation, even to you." 



THE WOMAN ON THE LAWN 11 

And Hastings, largely because he shrank from 
seeming ungracious, had accepted Mr. Sloane's 
subsequent invitation. 

Climbing now into the old-fashioned four- 
poster bed, he thought again of his conversation- 
spree and longed for self-justification. He sat 
up, sheetless, reflecting: 

"As a week-ender, I'm a fine old chatter-box! 
But young Webster got me ! What did he say? 
' The cleverer the criminal, the easier to run 
him down. The thug, acting on the spur of the 
moment, with a blow in the dark and a getaway 
through the night, leaves no trace behind him. 
Your " smart criminal " always overreaches 
himself.' A pretty theory, but wild. Anyway, 
it made me forget myself; I talked my old fool 
head off." 

He felt himself blush. 

"Wish I'd let Wilton do the disproving; he 
was anxious enough." 

A mental picture of Sloane consoled him once 
more. 

" Silk socks and gingham gumption ! " he 
thought. " But he's honest in his talk about 
being interested in crime. The man loves 
crime! Good thing he's got plenty of 
money." 

He fell asleep, in a kind of ruminative 
growl : 



12 "NO CLUE!" 

" Made a fool of myself babbling about what 
/ remembered what / thought! I'll go back 
to Washington in the morning." 

Judge Wilton's unsteady voice, supplemented 
by a rattling of the doorknob, roused him. He 
had thrust one foot out of bed when Wilton 
came into the room. 

" Quick ! Come on, man ! " the judge in- 
structed, and hurried into the hall. 

" What's wrong? " Hastings demanded, reach- 
ing for his spectacles. 

Wilton, on his way down the stairs, flung 
back: 

" A woman hurt outside." 

From the hall below came Mr. Sloane's high- 
pitched, complaining tones : 

" Unfathomable angels! What do you say? 
Who? " 

Drawing on shoes and trousers, the detective 
overtook his host on the front verandah and 
followed him down the steps and around the 
northeast corner of the house. He noticed that 
Sloane carried in one hand an electric torch 
and in the other a bottle of smelling salts. It 
was no longer raining. 

Rounding the corner, they saw, scarcely fifteen 
yards from the bay-window of the ballroom, the 
upturned face of a woman who lay prostrate on 
the lawn. Lights had been turned on in the 



THE WOMAN ON THE LAWN 13 

house, making a glow which cut through the 
starless night. 

The woman did not move. Judge Wilton was 
in the act of kneeling beside her. 

" Hold on ! " Hastings called out. " Don't dis- 
turb her if she's dead." 

" She is dead! " said Wilton. 

" Who is she? " The detective, trying to find 
signs of life, put his hand over her heart. 

" I don't know," Wilton answered the ques- 
tion. " Do you, Sloane? " 

"Of course, I don't!" 

Hastings said afterwards that Sloane's reply 
expressed astonished resentment that he should 
be suspected of knowing anybody vulgar enough 
to be murdered on his lawn. 

The detective drew back his hand. His fingers 
were dark with blood. 

At that moment Berne Webster, Lucille 
Sloane's fiance', came from the rear of the house, 
announcing breathlessly : 

" No 'phone connection this time of night, 
judge. It's past midnight. I sent chauffeur 
Lally for the sheriff." 

Hastings stood up, his first, cursory examina- 
tion concluded. 

" No doubt about it," he said. " She's dead. 
Bring a blanket, somebody ! " 

Mr. Sloane's nerves had the best of him by 



14 "NO CLUE!" 

this time. He trembled like a man with a chill, 
rattling the bottle of smelling salts against the 
metal end of his electric torch. He had on slip- 
pers and a light dressing gown over his pajamas. 

Wilton was fully dressed, young Webster col- 
larless but wearing a black, light-weight loung- 
ing jacket. Hastings was struck with the dif- 
ferent degrees of their dress, or undress. 

" Who found her? " he asked, looking at Web- 
ster. 

"Judge Wilton and I," said Webster, so 
short of breath that his chest heaved. 

"How long ago?" 

W T ilton answered that: 

" A few minutes, hardly five minutes. I ran 
in to call you and Sloane." 

" And Mr. you, Mr. Webster? " 

" The judge told me to to get the sheriff 
by telephone." 

Hastings knelt again over the woman's body. 

"Here, Mr. Sloane," he ordered, "hold that 
torch closer, will you? " 

Mr. Sloane found compliance impossible. He 
could not steady his hand sufficiently. 

" Hold that torch, judge," Hastings prompted. 

" It's knocked me out completely," Sloane 
said, surrendering the torch to Wilton. 

Webster, the pallor still on his face, a look 
of horror in his eyes, stood on the side of the 



THE WOMAN ON THE LAWN '15 

body opposite the detective. At brief intervals 
he raised first one foot, then the other, clear 
of the ground and set it down again. He was 
unconscious of making any movement at all. 

Hastings, thoroughly absorbed in the work 
before him, went about it swiftly, with now and 
then brief, murmured comment on what he did 
and saw. Although his ample night-shirt, stuffed 
into his equally baggy trousers, contributed 
nothing but comicality to his appearance, the 
others submitted without question to his domi- 
nation. There was about him suddenly an at- 
mosphere of power that impressed even the little 
group of awe-struck servants who stood a few 
feet away. 

" Stabbed," he said, after he had run his hands 
over the woman's figure ; " died instantly must 
have. Got her heart. Young not over twenty- 
five, would you say? Not dead long. Anybody 
call a doctor? " 

" I told Lally to stop by Dr. Garnet's house 
and send him at once," Webster said, his 
voice low, and broken. " He's the coroner, 
too." 

Hastings continued his examination. The 
brief pause that ensued was broken by a woman's 
voice : 

"Pauline! Pauline!" 

The call came from one of the upstairs win- 



16 " NO CLUE ! " 

dows. Hearing it, a woman in the servant group 
hurried into the house. 

Webster groaned : " My God ! " 

" Frantic fiends ! It gets worse and worse ! " 
Sloane objected shrilly. " My nerves ! And 
Lucille's annoyed shocked ! " 

He held the smelling bottle to his nose, breath- 
ing deeply. 

"Here! Take this!" Hastings directed, and 
put up his hand abruptly. 

Sloane had so gone to pieces that the move- 
ment frightened him. He stepped back in such 
obvious terror that a hoarse guffaw of invol- 
untary ridicule escaped one of the servants. The 
detective, finding that his kneeling posture made 
it difficult to put his handkerchief back into his 
trousers pocket, had thrust it toward Sloane. 
That gentleman having so suddenly removed 
himself out of reach, Hastings stuck the handker- 
chief into Judge Wilton's coat-pocket. 

Arthur Sloane, the detective said later, never 
forgave him that unexpected wave of the hand- 
kerchief and the servant's ridiculing laugh. 

Hastings looked up to Wilton. 

" Did you find any weapon? " 

" I didn't look didn't take time." 

" Neither did I," young Webster added. 

Hastings, disregarding the wet grass, was on 
his hands and knees, searching. He accom- 



THE WOMAN ON THE LAWN 17 

plished a complete circuit of the body, his round- 
shouldered, stooping figure making grotesque, 
elephantine shadows under the light of the torch 
as he moved about slowly, not trusting his eyes, 
but feeling with his hands every inch of the 
smallest, half-lit spaces. 

Nobody else took part in the search. Having 
accepted his leadership from the outset, they 
seemed to take it for granted that he needed 
no help. Mentally benumbed by the horror of 
the tragedy, they stood there in the quiet, sum- 
mer night, barren of ideas. They were like 
children, waiting to be instructed. 

Hastings stood erect, pulling and hauling at 
his trousers. 

"Can't find a knife or anything," he said. 
" Glad I can't. Hope he took it with him." 

"Why?" asked Sloane, through chattering 
teeth. 

" May help us to find him may be a clue in 
the end." 

He was silent a moment, squinting under the 
rims of his spectacles, looking down at the fig- 
ure of the dead woman. He had already cov- 
ered the face with the hat she had worn, a black 
straw sailor; but neither he nor the others found 
it easy to forget the peculiar and forbidding ex- 
pression the features wore, even in death. It 
was partly fear, partly defiance as if her last 



18 " NO CLUE ! " 

conscious thought had been a flitting look into 
the future, an exulting recognition of the certain 
consequences of the blow that had struck her 
down. 

Put into words, it might have been : " You've 
murdered me, but you'll pay for it terribly ! " 

A servant handed Hastings the blanket he had 
ordered. He looked toward the sky. 

" I don't think it will rain any more," he 
said. " And it's best to leave things as they are 
until the coroner arrives. He'll be here soon? " 

" Should get here in half an hour or so," Judge 
Wilton informed him. 

The detective arranged the blanket so that it 
covered the prone form completely, leaving the 
hat over the face as he had first placed it. With 
the exception of the hat, he had disturbed no part 
of the apparel. Even the folds of the raincoat, 
which fell away from the body and showed the 
rain-soaked black skirt, he left as he had found 
them. The white shirtwaist, also partly ex- 
posed now, was dry. 

" Anybody move her hat before I came out? " 
he asked; "you, judge; or you, Mr. Webster?" 

They had not touched it, they said ; it was on 
the grass, beside her head, when they discov- 
ered the body, and they had left it there. 

Again he was silent, brows drawn together 
as he stood over the murdered woman. Finally, 



THE WOMAN ON THE LAWN 19 

he raised his head swiftly and, taking each in 
turn, searched sharply the countenances of the 
three men before him. 

" Does didn't anybody here know this 
woman? " he asked. 

Berne Webster left his place at the opposite 
side of the body and came close to Hastings. 

" I know who she is," he said, his voice lower 
even than before, as if he wished to keep that 
information from the servants. 

Hastings' keen scrutiny had in it no intimation 
of surprise. Waiting for Webster to continue, 
he was addressed by the shivering Mr. Sloane : 

" Mr. Hast Mr. Hastings, take charge of 
of things. Will you? You know about these 
things." 

The detective accepted the suggestion. 

" Suppose we get at what we know about it 
what we all know. Let's go inside." He 
turned to the servants : " Stay here until you're 
called. See that nothing is disturbed, nothing 
touched." 

He led the way into the house. Sloane, near 
collapse, clung to one of Judge Wilton's broad 
shoulders. It was young Webster who, as the 
little procession passed the hatrack in the front 
hall, caught up a raincoat and threw it over the 
half-clad Hastings. 



Ill 

THE UNEXPECTED WITNESS 

IN the library Hastings turned first to Judge 
Wilton for a description of the discovery 
of the body. The judge was in better con- 
dition than the others for connected narrative, 
Arthur Sloane had sunk into a morris chair, 
where he sighed audibly and plied himself by 
fits and starts with the aroma from the bottle of 
smelling salts. Young Webster, still breathing 
as if he had been through exhausting physical 
endeavour, stood near the table in the centre of 
the room, mechanicall*; shifting his weight from 
foot to foot. 

Wilton, seated half-across the room from 
Hastings, drew, absently, on a dead cigar-stump. 
A certain rasping note in his voice was his only 
remaining symptom of shock. He had the stern 
calmness of expression that is often seen in the 
broad, irregularly-featured face in early middle 
age. 

" I can tell you in very few words," he said, 
addressing the detective directly. " We all left 
this room, you'll remember, at eleven o'clock. 
20 



THE UNEXPECTED WITNESS 21 

I found my bedroom uncomfortable, too warm. 
Besides, it had stopped raining. When I no- 
ticed that, I decided to go out and smoke my 
good-night cigar. This is what's left of it." 

He put a finger to the unlighted stump still 
between his lips. 

" What time did you go out? " asked Hastings. 

" Probably, a quarter of an hour after I'd gone 
upstairs fifteen or twenty minutes past eleven, 
I should guess." 

" How did you go out by what door? " 

" The front door. I left it unlocked, but not 
open. At first I paced up and down, on the 
south side of the house, under the trees. It was 
reasonably light there then that is to say, the 
clouds had thinned a little, and, after my eyes 
had got accustomed to it, I had no trouble in 
avoiding the trees and shrubbery. 

" Then a cloud heavier than the others came 
up, I suppose. Anyway, it was much darker. 
There wasn't a light in the house, except in my 
room and Berne Webster's. Yours was out, I 
remember. I passed by the front of the house 
then, and went around to the north side. It 
was darker there, I thought, than it had been 
under the trees on the south side." 

" How long had you been out then, al- 
together? " 

" Thirty or forty minutes." He looked at his 



22 "NO CLUE!" 

watch. " It's a quarter past twelve now. Let 
me see. I found the body a few minutes after 
I changed over to the north side. I guess I 
found it about five minutes before midnight 
certainly not more than twenty minutes ago." 

Hastings betrayed his impatience only by 
squinting under his spectacles and down the line 
of his nose, eying Wilton closely. 

"All right, judge! Let's have it." 

" I was going along slowly, very slowly, not 
doing much more than feeling my way with 
my feet on the close-shaven grass. It was the 
darkest night I ever saw. Literally, I couldn't 
have seen my hand in front of me. 

" I had decided to turn about and go indoors 
when I was conscious of some movement, or 
slight sound, directly in front of me, and down- 
ward, at my feet. I got that impression." 

"What movement? You mean the sound of 
a fall? " 

"No; not that exactly." 

"A footstep?" 

" No. I hadn't any definite idea what sort of 
noise it was. I did think that, perhaps, it was 
a dog or a cat. Just then my foot came in 
contact with something soft. I stooped down 
instinctively, immediately. 

"At that moment, that very second, a light 
flashed on in Arthur's bedroom. That's between 



THE UNEXPECTED WITNESS 23 

this room and the big ballroom on this floor, 
of course. That light threw a long, illuminating 
shaft into the murky darkness, the end of it 
coming just far enough to touch me and what 
I found the woman's body. I saw it by that 
light before I had time to touch it with my 
hand." 

The judge stopped and drew heavily on his 
dead cigar. 

"All right. See anything else?" Hastings 
urged. 

"Yes; I saw Berne Webster. He had made 
the noise which attracted my attention." 

" How do you know that? " 

" He Tnust have. He was stooping down, too, 
on the other side of the body, facing me, when 
the light went on " 

Sloane, twisting nervously in his chair, cut 
into Wilton's narrative. 

" I can put this much straight," he said in 
shrill complaint : " I turned on the light you're 
talking about. I hadn't been able to sleep." 

" Let's have this, one at a time, if you don't 
mind, Mr. Sloane," the detective suggested, 
watching Webster. 

The young man, staring with fascinated inten- 
sity at Judge Wilton, seemed to experience some 
new horror as he listened. 

" He was on the other side of it," the judge 



24 "NO CLUE!" , 

continued, " and practically in the same posi- 
tion that- 1 was. We faced each other across 
the body. I think that describes the discovery, 
as you call it. We immediately examined the 
woman, looking for the wound, and found it. 
When we saw she was dead, we came in to wake 
you and try to get a doctor. I told Berne to 
do that." 

During the last few sentences Hastings had 
been walking slowly from his chair to the library 
door and back, his hands gouged deep into his 
trouser-pockets, folds of his night-shirt protrud- 
ing from and falling over the waistband of the 
trousers, the raincoat hanging baggily from his 
shoulders. Ludicrous as the costume was, how- 
ever, the old man so dominated them still that 
none of them, not even Wilton, questioned his 
authority. 

And yet, the thing he was doing should have 
appealed to them as noteworthy. A man of 
less power could not have accomplished it. 
Coming from a sound sleep to the scene of a 
murder, he had literally picked up these men 
who had discovered it and who must be closely 
touched by it, had overcome their agitation, had 
herded them into the house and, with amazing 
promptness, had set about the task of getting 
from them the stories of what they knew and 
what they had done. 



THE UNEXPECTED WITNESS 25 

Appreciating his opportunity, he had deter- 
mined to bring to light at once everything they 
knew. He devoted sudden attention now to Web- 
ster, whom he knew by reputation a lawyer 
thirty years of age, brilliant in the criminal 
courts, and at present striving for a foothold in 
the more remunerative ranks of civil practice. 
He had never been introduced to him, however, 
before meeting him at Sloanehurst. 

"Who touched that body first Mr. Web- 
ster? " he demanded, his slow promenade unin- 
terrupted as he kept his eyes on the law- 
yer's. 

" Judge I don't know, I believe," Webster re- 
plied uncertainly. " Who did, judge? " 

" I want your recollection," Hastings insisted, 
kindly in spite of the unmistakable command 
of his tone. " That's why I asked you." 

"Why?" 

" For one thing, it might go far toward show- 
ing who was really first on the scene." 

" I see; but I really don't remember. I'm not 
sure that either of us touched the body jusi- 
then. I think we both drew back, instinctively, 
when the light flashed on. Afterwards, of course, 
we both touched her looking for signs of 
life." 

The detective came to a standstill in front of 
Webster. 



26 " NO CLUE ! " 

" Who reached the body first? Can you say? " 

" No. I don't think either was first. We got 
there together." 

" Simultaneously? " 

" Yes." 

"But I'm overlooking something. How did 
you happen to be there? " 

"That's simple enough," Webster said, his 
brows drawn together, his eyes toward the floor, 
evidently making great effort to omit no de- 
tail of what had oeccurred. " I went to my 
room when we broke up here, at eleven. I read 
for a while. I got tired of that it was close 
and hot. Besides, I never go to bed before one 
in the morning that is, practically never. And 
I wasn't sleepy. 

" I looked at my watch. It was a quarter to 
twelve. Like the judge, I noticed that it had 
stopped raining. I thought I'd have a better 
night's sleep if I got out and cooled off thor- 
oughly. My room, the one I have this time, is 
close to the back stairway. I went down that, 
and out the door on the north side." 

" Were you smoking? " Hastings put the 
query sharply, as if to test the narrator's nerves. 

Webster's frown deepened. 

" No. But I had cigarettes and matches with 
me. I intended to smoke and walk about." 

" But what happened? " 



THE UNEXPECTED WITNESS 27 

" It was so much darker than I had thought 
that I groped along with my feet, much as 
Judge Wilton did. I was making my way 
toward the front verandah. I went on, sliding 
my feet on the wet grass." 

"Any reason for doing that, do you remem- 
ber? Are there any obstructions there, anything 
but smooth, open lawn? " 

"No. It was merely an instinctive act in 
pitch dark, you know." 

Webster, his eyes still toward the floor, waited 
for another question. Not getting it, he re- 
sumed : 

" My foot struck something soft. I thought it 
was a wet cloak, something of that sort, left out 
in the rain. I hadn't heard a thing. And I had 
no premonition of anything wrong. I bent over, 
with nothing more than sheer idle curiosity, to 
put my hand on whatever the thing was. And 
just then the light went on in Mr. Sloane's bed- 
room. The judge and I were looking at each 
other across somebody lying on the ground, face 
upward." 

" Either of you cry out? " 

No." 

" Say anything? " 

Not much." 

Well, what? " 

" I remember the judge said, ' Is she dead? ' 



28 "NO CLUE!" 

I said, ' How is she hurt? ' We didn't say much 
while we were looking for the wound." 

" Did you tell Judge Wilton you knew her? " 

" No. There wasn't time for any explanation 
specially." 

" But you do know her? " 

" I told you that, sir, outside just now." 

"All right. Who is she?" Hastings put 
that query carelessly, in a way which might 
have meant that he had heard the most impor- 
tant part of the young lawyer's story. That 
impression was heightened by his beginning 
again to pace the floor. 

" Her name's Mildred Brace," replied Web- 
ster, moistening his lips with his tongue. " She 
was my stenographer for eight months." 

The detective drew up sharply. 

"When?" 

" Until two weeks ago." 

"She resign?" 

Yes. No I discharged her." 

"What for?" 

" Incompetence." 

" I don't understand that exactly. You mean 
you employed her eight months although she 
was incompetent? " 

"That's pretty bald," Webster objected. 
" Her incompetence came, rather, from tempera- 
ment. She was, toward the last, too nervous, 



THE UNEXPECTED WITNESS 29 

excitable. She was more trouble than she was 
worth." 

"Ah, that's different," Hastings said, with a 
significance that was clear. " People might have 
thought," he elaborated, " if you had fired her 
for other reasons, this tragedy tonight would 
have put you in an unenviable position to say 
the least." 

He had given words to the vague feeling which 
had depressed them all, ever since the discovery 
of the murder; that here was something vastly 
greater than the accidental finding of a person 
killed by an outsider, that the crime touched 
Sloanehurst personally. The foreboding had 
been patent almost, it seemed, a tangible thing 
but, until this moment, each had steered clear 
of it, in speech. 

Webster's response was bitter. 

" They'll want to say it anyway, I guess." To 
that he added, in frank resentment : " And I 
might as well enter a denial here : I had nothing 
to do with the this whole lamentable affair ! " 

The silence in which he and Hastings regarded 
each other was broken by Arthur Sloane's queru- 
lous words: 

" Why why, in the name of all the inscrutable 
saints, this thing should have happened at 
Sloanehurst, is more than I can say ! Jumping 
angels! Now, let me tell you what I " 



30 "NO CLUE!" 

He stopped, hearing light footfalls coming 
down the hall. There was the swish of silk, a 
little outcry half-repressed, and Lucille Sloane 
stood in the doorway. One hand was at her 
breast, the other against the door-frame, to 
steady her tall, slightly swaying figure. Her 
hair, a pyramid on her head, as if the black, 
heavy masses of it had been done by hurrying 
fingers, gave to her unusual beauty now an 
added suggestion of dignity. 

Profoundly moved as she was, there was noth- 
ing of the distracted or the inadequate about her. 
Hastings, who had admired her earlier in the 
evening, saw that her poise was far from over- 
thrown. It seemed to him that she even had 
considered how to wear with extraordinary effect 
the brilliant, vari-coloured kimono draped about 
her. The only criticism of her possible was that, 
perhaps, she seemed a trifle too imperious but, 
for his part, he liked that. 

" A thoroughbred ! " he catalogued her, men- 
tally. 

" You will excuse me, father," she said from 
the doorway, " but I couldn't help hearing." 
She thrust forward her chin. " Oh, I had to 
hear! And there's something I have to tell." 

Her glance went at last from Sloane to Hast- 
ings as she advanced slowly into the room. 

The detective pushed forward a chair for her. 



THE UNEXPECTED WITNESS 31 

"That's fine, Miss Sloane," he assured her. 
" I'm sure you're going to help us." 

" It isn't much," she qualified, " but I think 
it's important." 

Still she looked at neither Berne Webster nor 
Judge Wilton. And only a man trained as 
Hastings was to keenness of observation would 
have seen the slight but incessant tremour of her 
fingers and the constant, convulsive play of the 
muscles under the light covering of her black 
silk slippers. 

Sloane, alone, had remained seated. She was 
looking up to Hastings, who stood several feet 
in front of Webster and the judge. 

" I had gone to sleep," she said, her voice low, 
but musical and clear. " I waked up when I 
heard father moving about his room is directly 
under mine; and, now that Aunt Lucy is away, 
I'm always more or less anxious about him. 
And I knew he had got quiet earlier, gone to 
sleep. It wasn't like him to be awake again so 
soon. 

" I sprang out of bed, really very quickly. I 
listened for a few seconds, but there was no 
further sound in father's room. The night was 
unusually quiet. There wasn't a sound at first. 
Then I heard something. It was like somebody 
running, running very fast, outside, on the 
grass." 



32 "NO CLUE!" 

She paused. Hastings was struck by her air 
of alertness, or of prepared waiting, of readiness 
for questions. 

" Which way did the footsteps go? " he asked. 

" From the house down the slope, toward the 
little gate that opens on the road." 

"Then what?" 

" I wondered idly what it meant, but it made 
no serious impression on me. I listened again 
for sounds in father's room. There was none. 
Struck again by the heavy silence it was almost 
oppressive, coming after the rain I went to the 
window. I stood there, I don't know how long. 
I think I was day-dreaming, lazily running 
things over in my mind. I don't think it was 
very long. 

" And then father turned on the light in his 
room." She made a quick gesture with her left 
hand, wonderfully expressive of shock. " I shall 
never forget that! The long, narrow panel of 
light reached out into the dark like an ugly, 
yellow arm reached out just far enough to 
touch and lay hold of the picture there on the 
grass; a woman lying on the drenched ground, 
her face up, and bending over her Judge Wil- 
ton and Berne Mr. Webster. 

" I knew she'd been hurt dreadfully ; her feet 
were drawn up, her knees high ; and I could see 
the looks of horror on the men's faces." 



THE UNEXPECTED WITNESS 33 

She paused, giving all her strength to the 
effort to retain her self-control before the assail- 
ing memory of what she had seen. 

" That was all, Miss Sloane? " the detective 
prompted, in a kindly tone. 

"Yes, quite," she said. "But I'd heard 
Berne's what he was saying to you and the 
judge's description of what they'd seen; and I 
thought you would like to know of the footsteps 
I'd heard because they were the murderer's; 
they must have been. I knew it was important, 
most important." 

" You were entirely right," he agreed warmly. 
"Thank you, very much." 

He went the length of the room and halted 
by one of the bookcases, a weird, lumpy old fig- 
ure among the shadows in the corner. He was 
scraping his cheek with his thumb, and looking 
at the ceiling, over the rims of his specta- 
cles. 

Arthur Sloane sighed his impatience. 

"Those knees drawn up," Hastings said at 
last ; " I was just thinking. They weren't drawn 
up when I saw the body. Were they? " 

"We'd straightened the limbs," Webster an- 
swered. " Thought I'd mentioned that." 

" No. Then, there might have been a struggle? 
You think the woman had put up a fight for her 
life? and was overpowered? " 



34 "NO CLUE!" 

" Well," deliberated Webster, " perhaps ; even 
probably." 

" Strange," commented the detective, eqnally 
deliberate. " I hadn't thought so. I would have 
said she'd been struck down unawares without 
the slightest warning." 



IV 

HASTINGS IS RETAINED 

ARRIVAL of the officials, Sheriff Crown and 
the coroner, Dr. Garnet, brought the con- 
ference to an abrupt close. Hastings, 
seeing the look in the girl's eyes, left the library 
in advance of the other men. Lucille followed 
him immediately. 

"Mr. Hastings!" 

" Yes, Miss Sloane? " 

He turned and faced her. 

" I must talk to you, alone. Won't you come 
in here? " 

She preceded him into the parlour across the 
hall. When he put his hand on the electric 
switch, she objected, saying she preferred to be 
without the lights. He obeyed her. The glow 
from the hall was strong enough to show him 
the play of her features which was what he 
wanted. 

They sat facing each other, directly under the 
chandelier in the middle of the spacious room. 
He thought she had chosen that place to avoid 

35 



36 "NO CLUE!" 

all danger of being overheard in any direction. 
He saw, too, that she was hesitant, half -regret- 
ting having brought him there. He read her 
doubts, saw how pain and anxiety mingled in 
her wide-open grey eyes. 

" Yes, I know," he said with a smile that was 
reassuring ; " I don't look like a particularly 
helpful old party, do I?" 

He liked her more and more. In presence of 
mind, he reflected, she surpassed the men of 
the household. In spite of the agitation that 
still kept her hands trembling and gave her 
that odd look of fighting desperately to hold her- 
self together, she had formed a plan which she 
was on the point of disclosing to him. 

Her courage impressed him tremendously. 
And, divining what her request would be, he 
made up his mind to help her. 

" It's not that," she said, her lips twisting to 
the pretence of a smile. " I know your repu- 
tation how brilliant you are. I was thinking 
you might not understand what I wanted to 
say." 

" Try me," he encouraged. " I'm not that 
old!" 

It occurred to him that she referred to Berne 
Webster and herself, fearing, perhaps, his lack 
of sympathy for a love affair. 

"It's this," she began a rush of words, put- 



HASTINGS IS RETAINED 37 

ting away all reluctance : " I think I realize more 
keenly than father how disagreeable this awful 
thing is going to be the publicity, the news- 
papers, the questions, the photographs. I know, 
too, that Mr. Webster's in an unpleasant situa- 
tion. I heard what he said to you in the library, 
every word of it. But I don't have to think 
about him so much as about my father. He's a 
very sick man, Mr. Hastings. The shock of 
this, the resultant shocks lasting through days 
and weeks, may be fatal for him. 

"Besides," she explained, attaining greater 
composure, " he is so nervous, so impatient of. 
discomfort and irritating things, that he may 
bring upon himself the enmity of the authorities, 
the investigators. He may easily provoke them 
so that they would do anything to annoy him. 

" I see you don't understand ! " she lamented 
suddenly, turning her head away a little. 

He could see how her lips trembled, as if she 
held them together only by immense resolution. 

" I think I do," he contradicted kindly. " You 
want my help; isn't that it?" 

" Yes." She looked at him again, with a quick 
turn of her head, her eyes less wide-open while 
she searched his face. " I want to employ you. 
Can't I what do they call it? retain you? " 

"To do what, exactly?" 

"Oh-h-h!" The exclamation had the hint of 



38 "NO CLUE!" 

a sob in it; she was close to the end of her 
strength. " I'm a little uncertain about that. 
Can't you help me there? I want the real crim- 
inal found soon, immediately, as soon as possible. 
I want you to work on that. And, in the mean- 
time, I want you to protect us father do 
things so that we shan't be overrun by reporters 
and detectives, all the dreadful results of the 
discovery of a murder at our very front door." 

He was thoughtful, looking into her eyes. 

" The fee is of no matter, the amount of it," 
she added impulsively. 

" I wasn't thinking of that although, of 
course, I don't despise fees. You see, the author- 
ities, the sheriff, might not want my assistance, 
as you call it. Generally, they don't. They look 
upon it as interference and meddling." 

" Still, you can work independently retained 
by Mr. Arthur Sloane can't you? " 

He studied her further. For her age hardly 
more than twenty-two she was strikingly ma- 
ture of face, and self-reliant. She had, he con- 
cluded, unusual strength of purpose; she was 
capable of large emotionalism, but mere feeling 
would never cloud her mind. 

" Yes," he answered her ; " I can do that. I 
will." 

" Ah," she breathed, some of the tenseness go- 
ing out of her, " you are very good ! " 



HASTINGS IS RETAINED 39 

" And you will help me, of course." 

Of course." 

" You can do so now," he pressed this point. 
" Why is it that all of you I noticed it in the 
men in the library, and when we were outside, 
on the lawn why is it that all of you think this 
crime is going to hit you, one of you, so hard? 
You seem to acknowledge in advance the guilt 
of one of you." 

"Aren't you mistaken about that?" 

" No. It struck me forcibly. Didn't you feel 
it? Don't you, now? " 

"Why, no!" 

He was certain that she was not frank with 
him. 

" You mean," she added quickly, eyes nar- 
rowed, " I suspect actually suspect some one 
in this house? " 

In his turn, he was non-committal, retorting: 

"Don't you?" 

She resented his insistence. 

" There is only one idea possible, I think," she 
declared, rising : " the footsteps that I heard fled 
from the house, not into it. The murderer is 
not here." 

He stood up, holding her gaze. 

" I'm your representative now, Miss Sloane," 
he said, his manner fatherly in its solicitude. 
" My duty is to save you, and yours, in every 



40 "NO CLUE!" 

way I can without breaking the law. You re- 
alize what my job is do you? " 

" Yes, Mr. Hastings." 

" And the advisability, the necessity, of utter 
frankness between us? " 

" Yes." She said that with obvious impa- 
tience. 

" So," he persisted, " you understand my mo- 
tive in asking you now: is there nothing more 
you can tell me of what you heard and saw, 
when you were at your window? " 

" Nothing absolutely," she said, again obvi- 
ously annoyed. 

He was close to a refusal to have anything 
to do with the case. He was sure that she 
did not deal openly with him. He tried 
again : 

" Nothing more, Miss Sloane? Think, please. 
Nothing to make you, us, more suspicious of 
Mr. Webster? " 

"Suspect Berne!" 

This time she was frank, he saw at once. The 
idea of the young lawyer's guilt struck her as 
out of the question. Her confidence in that was 
genuine, unalloyed. It was so emphatic that it 
surprised him. Why, then, this anxiety which 
had driven her to him for help? What caused 
the fear which, at the beginning of their inter- 
view, had been so apparent? 



HASTINGS IS RETAINED 41 

He thought with great rapidity, turning the 
thing over in his mind as he stood confronting 
her. If she did not suspect Webster, whom 
did she suspect? Her father? 

That was it ! her father ! 

The discovery astounded Hastings and ap- 
pealed to his sympathy, tremendously. 

" My poor child ! " he said, on the warm im- 
pulse of his compassion. 

She chose to disregard the tone he had used. 
She took a step toward the door, and paused, 
to see that he followed her. 

He went nearer to her, to conclude what he 
had wanted to say: 

" I shall rely on this agreement between us : 
I can come to you on any point that occurs to 
me? You will give me anything, and all the 
things, that may come to your knowledge as 
the investigation proceeds? Is it a bargain, Miss 
Sloane? " 

" A bargain, Mr. Hastings," she assented. " I 
appreciate, as well as you do, the need of fair 
dealing between us. Anything else would be 
foolish." 

" Fine ! That's great, Miss Sloane ! " He was 
still sorry for her. " Now, let me be sure, once 
for all: you're concealing nothing from me, no 
little thing even, on the theory that it would be 
of no use to me and, therefore, not worth dis- 



42 "NO CLUE!" 

cussing? You told us all you knew in the 
library? " 

She moved toward the door to the hall again. 

" Yes, Mr. Hastings and I'm at your service 
altogether." 

He would have sworn that she was not telling 
the truth. This time, however, he had no thought 
of declining connection with the case. His com- 
passion for her had grown. 

Besides, her fear of her father's implication 
in the affair was there foundation for it, more 
foundation than the hasty thought of a daugh- 
ter still labouring under the effects of a great 
shock? He thought of Sloane, effeminate, shrill 
of voice, a trembling wreck, long ago a self-con- 
fessed ineffective in the battle of life he, a mur- 
derer ; he, capable of forceful action of any kind? 
It seemed impossible. 

But the old man kept that idea to himself, and 
instructed Lucille. 

" Then," he said, " you must leave things to 
me. Tell your father so. Tomorrow, for in- 
stance rather this morning, for it's already a 
new day reporters will come out here, and de- 
tectives, and the sheriff. All of them will want 
to question you, your father, all the members 
of the household. Refer them to me, if you 
care to. 

" If you discuss theories and possibilities, you 



HASTINGS IS RETAINED 43 

will only make trouble. To the sheriff, and any- 
body representing him, state the facts, the bare 
facts that's all. May I count on you for 
that? " 

" Certainly. That's why I've cm why I want 
your help: to avoid all the unpleasantness pos- 
sible." 

When she left him to go to her father's room, 
Hastings joined the group on the front verandah. 
Sheriff Crown and Dr. Garnet had already 
viewed the body. 

" I'll hold the inquest at ten tomorrow morn- 
ing, rather this morning," the coroner said. 
"That's hurrying things a little, but I'll have 
a jury here by then. They have to see the body 
before it's taken to Washington." 

" Besides," observed^ the sheriff, " nearly all 
the necessary witnesses are here in this house 
party." 

Aware of the Hastings fame, he drew the old 
man to one side. 

" I'm going into Washington," he announced, 
" to see this Mrs. Brace, the girl's mother. Web- 
ster says she has a flat, up on Fourteenth street 
there. Good idea, ain't it? " 

"Excellent," assured Hastings, and put in 
a suggestion : " You've heard of the fleeting foot- 
steps Miss Sloane reported?" 

"Yes. I thought Mrs. Brace might tell me 



44 "NO CLUE!" 

who that could have been some fellow jealous 
of the girl, I'll bet." 

The sheriff, who was a tall, lanky man with a 
high, hooked nose and a pointed chin that looked 
like a large knuckle, had a habit of thrusting 
forward his upper lip to emphasize his words. 
He thrust it forward now, making his bristly, 
close-cropped red moustache stand out from his 
face like the quills of a porcupine. 

" I'd thought of that all that," he continued. 
" Looks like a simple case to me very." 

" It may be," said Hastings, sure now that 
Crown would not suggest their working 
together. 

" Also," the sheriff told him, " I'll take this." 

He held out the crude weapon with which, 
apparently, the murder had been committed. It 
was a dagger consisting of a sharpened nail file, 
about three inches long, driven into a roughly 
rounded piece of wood. This wooden handle was 
a little more than four inches in length and two 
inches thick. Hastings, giving it careful exami- 
nation, commented: 

" He shaped that handle with a pocket-knife. 
Then, he drove the butt-end of the nail file into 
it. Next, he sharpened the end of the file put 
a razor edge on it. Where did you get this, Mr. 
Crown?" 

" A servant, one of the coloured women, picked 



HASTINGS IS EETAINED 45 

it up as I came in. You were still in the library." 

" Where was it? " 

" About fifteen or twenty feet from the body. 
She stumbled on it, in the grass. Ugly thing, 
sure ! " 

" Yes," Hastings said, preoccupied, and added : 
" Let me have it again." 

He took off his spectacles and, screwing into 
his right eye a jeweller's glass, studied it for 
several minutes. If he made an important dis- 
covery, he did not communicate it to Crown. 

" It made an ugly hole," was all he said. 

" You see the blood on it? " Crown prompted. 

" Oh, yes ; lucky the rain stopped when it did." 

"When did it stop out here?" Crown in- 
quired. 

" About eleven ; a few minutes after I'd gone 
up to bed." 

" So she was killed between eleven and mid- 
night? " 

"No doubt about that. Her hat had fallen 
from her head and was bottom up beside her. 
The inside of the crown and all the lower brim 
was dry as a bone, while the outside, even where 
it did not touch the wet grass, was wet. That 
showed there wasn't any rain after she was 
struck down." 

The sheriff was impressed by the other's keen- 
ness of observation. 



46 "NO CLUE!" 

" That's so," he said. " I hadn't noticed it." 

He sought the detective's opinion. 

" Mr. Hastings, you've just heard the stories 
of everybody here. Do me a favour, will you? 
Is it worth while for me to go into Washing- 
ton? Tell me: do you think anybody here at 
Sloanehurst is responsible for this murder? " 

" Mr. Crown," the old man answered, " there's 
no proof that anybody here killed that woman." 

" Just what I thought," Mr. Crown applauded 
himself. " Glad you agree with me. It'll turn 
out a simple case. Wish it wouldn't. Nominat- 
ing primary's coming on in less than a month. 
I'd get a lot more votes if I ran down a mys- 
terious fellow, solved a tough problem." 

He strode down the porch steps and out to 
his car for the ten-mile run into Washington. 
Hastings was strongly tempted to accompany 
him, even without being invited; it would mean 
much to be present when the mother first heard 
of her daughter's death. 

But he had other and, he thought, more im- 
portant work to do. Moving so quietly that his 
footsteps made no sound, he gained the staircase 
in the hall and made his way to the second 
floor. If anybody had seen him and inquired 
what he intended to do, he would have ex- 
plained that he was on his way to get his own 
coat in place of the one which young Webster 



HASTINGS IS RETAINED 47 

had, with striking thoughtfulness, thrown over 
him. 

As a matter of fact, his real purpose was to 
search Webster's room. 

But experience had long since imbued him 
with contempt for the obvious. Secure from in- 
terruption, since his fellow-guests were still in 
the library, he did not content himself with his 
hawk-like scrutiny of the one room ; he explored 
the back stairway which had been Webster's exit 
to the lawn, Judge Wilton's room, and his own. 

In the last stage of the search he encountered 
his greatest surprise. Looking under his own 
bed by the light of a pocket torch, he found 
that one of the six slats had been removed from 
its place and laid cross-ways upon the other five. 
The reason for this was apparent; it had been 
shortened by between four and five inches. 

"Cut off with a pocket-knife," the old man 
mused ; " crude work, like the shaping of the 
handle of that dagger downstairs ; same wood, 
too. And in my room, from my bed 

" I wonder " 

With a low whistle, expressive of incredulity, 
he put that new theory from him and went down 
to the library. 



THE INTERVIEW WITH MRS. BRACE 

GRATIFIED, and yet puzzled, by the re- 
sults of his search of the upstairs rooms, 
Hastings was fully awake to the necessity 
of his interviewing Mrs. Brace as soon as pos- 
sible. Lally, the chauffeur, drove him back to 
Washington early that Sunday morning. It was 
characteristic of the old man that, as they went 
down the driveway, he looked back at Sloane- 
hurst and felt keenly the sufferings of the people 
under its roof. 

He was particularly drawn to Lucille Sloane, 
with whom he had had a second brief confer- 
ence. While waiting for his coffee nobody in 
the house had felt like breakfast he had taken 
a chair at the southeast end of the front porch 
and, pulling a piece of soft wood and a knife 
from his Gargantuan coat-pockets, had fallen to 
whittling and thinking. Whittling, he often 
said, enabled him to think clearly; it was to 
him what tobacco was to other men. 

Thus absorbed, he suddenly heard Lucille's 
voice, low and tense: 

48 



THE INTERVIEW WITH MRS. BRACE 49 

" We'll have to leave it as it was be " 

Berne Webster interrupted her, a grain of bit- 
terness in his words: 

" Rather an unusual request, don't you 
think? " 

" I wanted to tell you this after the talk in 
the library," she continued, " but there- " 

They had approached Hastings from the south 
side of the house and, hidden from him by the 
verandah railing, were upon him before he could 
make his presence known. Now, however, he did 
so, warning them by standing up with a clam- 
orous scraping of his feet on the floor. Instinc- 
tively, he had recoiled from overhearing their 
discussion of what was, he thought, a love-affair 
topic. 

Lucille hurried to him, not that she had addi- 
tional information to give him, but to renew 
her courage. Having called upon him for aid, 
she had in the usual feminine way decided to 
make her reliance upon him complete. And, 
under the influence of his reassuring kindliness, 
her hesitance and misgivings disappeared. 

He had judged her feelings correctly during 
their conference in the parlour. At dinner, she 
had seen in him merely a pleasant, quiet-spoken 
old man, a typical " hick " farmer, who wore 
baggy, absurdly large clothing "for the sake 
of his circulation," he said and whose appear- 



50 " NO CLUE ! " 

ance in no way corresponded to his reputation 
as a learned psychologist and investigator of 
crime. Now, however, she responded warmly to 
his charm, felt the sincerity of his sympathy. 

Seeing that she looked up to him, he enjoyed 
encouraging her, was bound more firmly to her 
interests. 

" I think your fears are unfounded," he told 
her. 

But he did not reveal his knowledge that she 
suspected her father of some connection with 
the murder. In fact, he could not decide what 
her suspicion was exactly, whether it was that 
he had been guilty of the crime or that he had 
guilty knowledge of it. 

A little anxious, she had asked him to promise 
that he would be back by ten o'clock, for the in- 
quest. He thought he could do that, although 
he had persuaded the coroner that his evidence 
would not be necessary the judge and Webster 
had found the body ; their stories would establish 
the essential facts. 

" Why do you want me here then? " he asked, 
not comprehending her uneasiness. 

"For one thing," she said, "I want you to 
talk to father before the inquest. I wish yon i 
could now, but he isn't up." 

It was eight o'clock when Miss Davis, tele- 
phone operator in the cheap apartment house 



THE INTERVIEW WITH MRS. BRACE 51 

on Fourteenth street known as The Walman, 
took the old man's card and read the inscription, 
over the wire: 

"'Mr. Jefferson Hastings.'" 

After a brief pause, she told him : 

" She wants to know if you are a detective." 

" Tell her I am." 

" You may go up," the girl reported. " It's 
Number Forty-three, fourth floor no elevator." 

After ascending the three flights of stairs, he 
sat down on the top step, to get his breath. Mr. 
Hastings was stout, not to say sebaceous and 
he proposed to begin the interview unhandi- 
capped. 

Mrs. Brace answered his ring. There was 
nobody else in the apartment. The moment he 
looked into her restless, remarkably brilliant 
black eyes, he catalogued her as cold and repel- 
lent. 

"One of the swift-eyed kind," he thought; 
" heart as hard as her head. No blood in her 
but smart. Smart ! " 

He relied, without question, on his ability to 
" size up " people at first glance. It was a gift 
with him, like the intuition of women; and to 
it, he thought, he owed his best work as a de- 
tective. 

Mrs. Brace, without speaking, without ac- 
knowledging his quiet " Mrs. Brace, I believe? " 



52 "NO CLUE!" 

led him into the living room after waiting for 
him to close the entrance door. This room was 
unusually large, out of proportion to the rest 
of the apartment which included, in addition 
to the narrow entry, a bedroom, kitchen and 
bath all, so far as his observation went, sparsely 
and cheaply furnished. 

They sat down, and still she did not speak, 
but studied his face. He got the impression that 
she considered all men her enemies and sought 
some intimation of what his hostility would be 
like. 

" I'm sorry to trouble you at such a time," he 
began. " I shall be as brief as possible." 

Her black eyebrows moved upward, in curious 
interrogation. They were almost mephistophe- 
lian, and unpleasantly noticeable, drawn thus 
nearer to the wide wave of her white hair. 

" You wanted to see me about my daugh- 
ter?" 

Her voice was harsh, metallic, free of emo- 
tion. There was nothing about her indicative 
of grief. She did not look as if she had been 
weeping. He could learn nothing from her man- 
ner; it was extremely matter-of-fact, and chilly. 
Only, in her eyes he saw suspicion perhaps, 
he reflected, suspicion was always in her 
eyes. 

Her composure amazed him. 



THE INTERVIEW WITH MRS. BRACE 53 

" Yes," he replied gently; " if I don't distress 
you " 

What is it? " 

She suddenly lowered her eyebrows, drew 
them together until they were a straight line 
at the bottom of her forehead. 

Her cold self-possession made it easy, in fact 
necessary, for him to deal with facts directly. 
Apparently, she resented his intimated condo- 
lence. He could fling any statement, however 
sensational, against the wall of her indifference. 
She was, he decided, as free of feeling as she 
was inscrutable. She would be surprised by 
emotion into nothing. It was his brain against 
hers. 

" I want to say first," he continued, " that my 
only concern, outside of my natural and very 
real sympathy with such a loss as yours must 
be, is to find the man who killed her." 

She moved slowly to and fro on the armless, 
low-backed rocker, watching him intently. 

" Will you help me? " 

" If I can." 

" Thank you," he said, smiling encouragement 
from force of habit, not because he expected to 
arouse any spirit of cooperation in her. " I 
may ask you a few questions then? " 

" Certainly." 

Her thin nostrils dilated once, quickly, and 



54 "NO CLUE!" 

somehow their motion suggested the beginning 
of a ridiculing smile. He went seriously to 
work. 

" Have you any idea, Mrs. Brace, as to whe 
killed your daughter or could have wanted to 
kill her? " 

" Yes." 

Who? " 

She got up, without the least change of ex- 
pression, without a word, and, as she crossed 
the room, paused at the little table against the 
farther wall to arrange more symmetrically a 
pile of finger-worn periodicals. She went 
through the communicating door into the bed- 
room, and, from where he sat, he could see her 
go through another door into the bathroom, he 
guessed. In a moment, he heard a glass clink 
against a faucet. She had gone for a drink of 
water, to moisten her throat, like an orator pre- 
paring to deliver an address. 

She came back, unhurried, imperturbable, and 
sat down again in the armless rocker before she 
answered his question. So far as her manner 
might indicate, there had been no interruption 
of the conversation. 

He swept her with wondering eyes. She was 
not playing a part, not concealing sorrow. The 
straight, hard lines of her lean figure were a 
complement to her gleaming, unrevealing eyes. 



THE INTERVIEW WITH MRS. BRACE 55 

There was hardness about her, and in her, every- 
where. 

A slow, warm breeze brought through the cur- 
tainless window a disagreeable odour, sour and 
fetid. The apartment was at the back of the 
building; the odour came from a littered court- 
yard, a conglomeration of wet ashes, neglected 
garbage, little filthy pools, warmed into activity 
by the sun, high enough now to touch them. He 
could see the picture without looking and that 
odour struck him as excruciatingly appropriate 
to this woman's soul. 

" Berne Webster killed my daughter," she said 
evenly, hands moveless in her lap. " There are 
several reasons for my saying so. Mildred was 
his stenographer for eight months, and he fell 
in love with her that was the way he described 
his feeling, and intention, toward her. The 
usual thing happened; he discharged her two 
weeks ago. 

" He wants to marry money. You know about 
that, I take it Miss Sloane, daughter of A. B. 
Sloane, Sloanehurst, where she was murdered. 
They're engaged. At least, that is was Mil- 
dred's information, although the engagement 
hasn't been announced, formally. Fact is, he 
has to marry the Sloane girl." 

Her thin, mobile lips curled upward at the 
ends and looked a little thicker, giving an ex- 



56 " NO CLUE ! " 

aggerated impression of wetness. Hastings 
thought of some small, feline animal, creeping, 
anticipating prey a sort of calculating fe- 
rocity. 

She talked like a person bent on making every 
statement perfectly clear and understandable. 
There was no intimation that she was so com- 
municative because she thought she was obliged 
to talk. On the contrary, she welcomed the 
chance to give him the story. 

" Have you told all this to that sheriff, Mr. 
Crown? " he inquired. 

" Yes ; but he seemed to attach no importance 
to it." 

She coloured her words with feeling at last 
it was contempt putting the sheriff beyond 
the pale of further consideration. 

" You were saying Mr. Webster had to marry 
Miss Sloane. What do you mean by that, Mrs. 
Brace? " 

" Money reasons. He had to have money. His 
bank balance is never more than a thousand dol- 
lars. He's got to produce sixty-five thousand 
dollars by the seventh of next September. This 
is the sixteenth of July. Where is he to get all 
that? He's got to marry it." 

Hastings put more intensity into his scrutiny 
of her smooth, untroubled face. It showed no 
sudden access of hatred, no unreasoning venom, 



THE INTERVIEW WITH MRS. BRACE 57 

except that the general cast of her features spoke 
generally of vindictiveness. She was, unmis- 
takably, sure of what she said. 

" How do you know that? " he asked, hiding 
his surprise. 

" Mildred knew it naturally, from working in 
Ms office." 

" Let me be exact, Mrs. Brace. Your charge 
is just what? " 

He felt the need of keen thought. He reached 
for his knife and piece of wood. Entirely un- 
consciously, he began to whittle, letting little 
shavings fall on the bare floor. She made no 
sign of seeing his new occupation. 

" It's plain enough, Mr. I don't recall your 
name." 

" Hastings Jefferson Hastings." 

" It's plain and direct, Mr. Hastings. He 
threw her over, threw Mildred over. She refused 
to be dealt with in that way. He wouldn't listen 
to her side, her arguments, her protests, her 
pleas. She pursued him ; and last night he killed 
her. I understand Mr. Crown told me he was 
found bending over the body it seemed to 
me, caught in the very commission of the 
crime." 

A fleeting contortion, like mirthless ridicule, 
touched her lips as she saw him, with head 
lowered, cut more savagely into the piece of 



58 "NO CLUE!" 

wood. She noticed, and enjoyed, his dis- 
may. 

" That isn't quite accurate," he said, without 
lifting his head. " He and another man, Judge 
Wilton, stumbled came upon your daughter's 
body at the same moment." 

" Was that it? " she retorted, unbelieving. 

When he looked up, she was regarding him 
thoughtfully, the black brows elevated, interrog- 
ative. The old man felt the stirrings of physical 
nausea within him. But he waited for her to 
elaborate her story. 

" Do you care to ask anything more? " she 
inquired, impersonal as ashes. 

If I may." 

" Why, certainly." 

He paused in his whittling, brought forth a 
huge handkerchief, passed it across his forehead, 
was aware for a moment that he was working 
hard against the woman's unnatural calmness, 
and feeling the heat intensely. She was un- 
touched by it. He whittled again, asking her: 

" You a native of Washington? " 

" No." 

" How long have you been here? " 

"About nine months. We came from Chi- 
cago." 

"Any friends here have you any friends 
here? " 



THE INTERVIEW WITH MRS. BKACE 59 

" Neither here nor elsewhere." She made that 
bleak declaration simply, as if he had suggested 
her possession of green diamonds. Her tone 
made friendship a myth. 

He felt again utterly free of the restraints 
and little hesitancies usual in situations of this 
nature. 

"And your means, resources. Any, Mrs. 
Brace? " 

" None except my daughter's." 

He was unaccountably restless. Putting the 
knife into his pocket, he stood up, went to the 
window. His guess had been correct. The court- 
yard below was as he had pictured it. He stood 
there at least a full minute. 

Turning suddenly in the hope of catching some 
new expression on her face, he found her gazing 
steadily, as if in revery, at the opposite wall. 

" One thing more, Mrs. Brace : did you know 
your daughter intended to go to Sloanehurst 
last night? " 

No." 

"Were you uneasy when she failed to come 
in last night? " 

" Yes; but what could I do? " 

" Had she written to Mr. Webster recently? " 

"Yes; I think so." 

" You think so? " 

" Yes ; she went out to mail a letter night 



60 "NO CLUE!" 

before last. I recall that she said it was im- 
portant, had to be in the box for the midnight 
collection, to reach its destination yesterday 
afternoon late. I'm sure it was to Webster." 

" Did you see the address on it? " 

" I didn't try to." 

He stepped from the window, to throw the 
full glare of the morning sky on her face, which 
was upturned, toward him. 

" Was it in a grey envelope? " 

" Yes ; an oblong, grey envelope," she said, 
the impassive, unwrinkled face unmoved to either 
curiosity or reticence. 

With surprising swiftness he took a triangular 
piece of paper from his breast pocket and held 
it before her. 

" Might that be the flap of that grey envel- 
ope? " 

She inspected it, while he kept hold of it. 

"Very possibly." 

Without leaving her chair, she turned and put 
back the lid of a rickety little desk in the corner 
immediately behind her. There, she showed him, 
was a bundle of grey envelopes, the correspond- 
ing paper beside it. He compared the envelope 
flaps with the one he had brought. They were 
identical. 

Here was support of her assertion that Berne 
Webster had been pursued by her daughter as 



THE INTERVIEW WITH MRS. BRACE 61 

late as yesterday afternoon and, therefore, 
might have been provoked into desperate action. 
He had found that scrap of grey paper at Sloane- 
hurst, in Webster's room. 



VI 

ACTION BY THE SHERIFF 

MKS. BRACE did not ask Hastings where 
lie had got the fragment of grey en- 
velope. She made no comment what- 
ever. 

He reversed the flap in his hand and showed 
her the inner side on which were, at first sight, 
meaningless lines and little smears. He ex- 
plained that the letter must have been put into 
the envelope when the ink was still undried on 
the part of it that came in contact with the 
flap, and, the paper being of that rough-finish, 
spongy kind frequently affected by women, the 
flap had absorbed the undried ink pressed 
against it. 

" Have you a hand-mirror? " he asked, break- 
ing a long pause. 

She brought one from the bedroom. Holding 
it before the envelope flap, he showed her the 
marks thus made legible. They were, on the 
first line : " edly de ," with the first loop or 
curve of an u n " or an " m " following the 



ACTION BY THE SHERIFF 63 

" de " ; and on the second line the one word 
" Pursuit ! " the whole reproduction being this : 

edly de 
Pursuit! 

" Does that writing mean anything to you, 
Mrs. Brace?" Hastings asked, keeping it in 
front of her. 

She moved her left hand, a quiet gesture indi- 
cating her lack of further interest in the piece 
of paper. 

" Nothing special," she said, " except that the 
top line seems to bear out what I've told you. 
It might be : ' repeatedly demanded ' I mean 
Mildred may have written that she had re- 
peatedly demanded justice of him, something of 
that sort." 

" Is it your daughter's writing? " 

Yes." 

"And the word 'Pursuit,' with an exclama- 
tion point after it? That suggest anything to 
you? " 

" Why, no." She showed her first curiosity : 
" Where did you get that piece of envelope? " 

" Not from Berne Webster," he said, smiling. 

" I suppose not," she agreed, and did not press 
him for the information. 

" You said," he went to another point, " that 
the sheriff attached no importance to your be- 



64 "NO CLUE!" 

lief in Webster's guilt. Can you tell me why? " 

Her contempt was frank enough now, and 
visible, her lips thickening and assuming the 
abnormally humid appearance he had noticed 
before. 

" He thinks the footsteps which Miss Sloane 
says she heard are the deciding evidence. He 
accuses a young man named Kussell, Eugene 
Eussell, who's been attentive to Mildred." 

Hastings was relieved. 

" Crown's seen him, seen Russell? " he asked, 
not troubling to conceal his eagerness. 

On that, he saw the beginnings of wrath in 
her eyes. The black eyebrows went upward, 
the thin nostrils expanded, the lips set to a line 
no thicker than the edge of a knife. 

" You, too, will " 

She broke off, checked by the ringing of the 
wall telephone in the entrance hall. She an- 
swered the call, moving without haste. It was 
for Mr. Hastings, she said, going back to her 
seat. 

He regretted the interruption; it would give 
her time to regain the self-control she had been 
on the point of losing. 

Sheriff Crown was at the other end of the 
wire. He was back at Sloanehurst, he explained, 
and Miss Sloane had asked him to give the de- 
tective certain information: 



ACTION BY THE SHERIFF 65 

He had asked the Washington police to hold 
Eugene Russell, or to persuade him to attend 
the inquest at Sloanehurst. Crown, going in to 
Washington, had stopped at the car barns of the 
electric road which passed Sloanehurst, and had 
found a conductor who had made the ten-thirty 
run last night. This conductor, Barton, had 
slept at the barns, waiting for the early-morn- 
ing resumption of car service to take him to his 
home across the city. 

Barton remembered having seen a man leave 
his car at Ridgecrest, the next stop before Sloane- 
hurst, at twenty-five minutes past ten last night. 
He answered Russell's description, had seemed 
greatly agitated, and was unfamiliar with the 
stops on the line, having questioned Barton as 
to the distance between Ridgecrest and Sloane- 
hurst. That was all the conductor had to tell. 

" Mrs. Brace's description of Russell, a real 
estate salesman who had been attentive to her 
daughter," continued Crown, " tallied with Bar- 
ton's description of the man who had been on 
his car. I got his address from her. But say! 
She don't fall for the idea that Russell's guilty ! 
She gave me to understand, in that snaky, frozen 
way of hers, that I was a fool for thinking so. 

" Anyway, I'm going to put him over the 
jumps ! " The sheriff was highly elated. " What 
was he out here for last night if he wasn't jealous 



66 "NO CLUE!" 

of the girl? Wasn't he following her? And, 
when he came up with her on the Sloanehurst 
lawn, didn't he kill her? It looks plain to me; 
simple. I told you it was a simple case ! " 

" Have you seen him? " Hastings was looking 
at his watch as he spoke it was nine o'clock. 

" No ; I went to his boarding house, waked up 
the place at three o'clock this morning. He 
wasn't there." 

Hastings asked for the number of the house. 
It was on Eleventh street, Crown informed him, 
and gave the number. 

" I searched his room," the sheriff added, his 
voice self-congratulatory. 

"Find anything?" 

" I should say ! The nail file was missing from 
his dressing case." 

"What else?" 

" A pair of wet shoes muddy and wet." 

" Then, he'd returned to his room, after the 
murder, and gone out again?" 

" That's it right." 

" Anybody in the house hear him come in, or 
go out? " 

" Not a soul. And I don't know where he is 
now." 

Hastings, leaving the telephone, found Mrs. 
Brace carefully brushing into a newspaper the 
litter made by his whittling. Her performance 



ACTION BY THE SHERIFF 67 

of that trivial task, the calm thoroughness with 
which she went about it, or the littleness of it, 
when compared with her complete indifference 
to the tragedy which should have overwhelmed 
her something, he could not tell exactly what, 
made her more repugnant to him than ever. 

He spoke impulsively : 

" Did you want didn't you feel some impulse, 
some desire, to go out there when you heard of 
this murder? " 

She paused in her brushing, looking up to 
him without lifting herself from hands and 
knees. 

" Why should I have wanted to do any such 
thing? " she replied. " Mildred's not out there. 
What's out there is nothing." 

" Do you know about the arrangements for 
the removal of the body?" 

" The sheriff told me," she replied, cold, im- 
personal. " It will be brought to an undertaking 
establishment as soon as the coroner's jury has 
viewed it." 

" Yes at ten o'clock this morning." 

She made no comment on that. He had 
brought up the disagreeable topic one which 
would have been heart-breaking to any other 
mother he had ever known in the hope of arous- 
ing some real feeling in her. And he had failed. 
Her self-control was impregnable. There was 



68 " NO CLUE ! " 

about her an atmosphere that was, in a sense, 
terrifying, something out of all nature. 

She brushed up the remaining chips and shav- 
ings while he got his hat. He was deliberating : 
was there nothing more she could tell him? 
What could he hope to get from her except that 
which she wanted to tell? He was sure that she 
had spoken, in reply to each of his questions, 
according to a prearranged plan, a well designed 
scheme to bring into high relief anything that 
might incriminate Berne Webster. 

And he was by no means in a mood to per- 
suade himself of Webster's guilt. He knew the 
value of first impressions; and he did not pro- 
pose to let her clog his thoughts with far-fetched 
deductions against the young lawyer. 

She got to her feet with cat-like agility, and, 
to his astonishment, burst into violent speech: 

"You're standing there trying to think up 
things to help Berne Webster! Like the sheriff! 
Now, I'll tell you what I told him: Webster's 
guilty. I know it ! He killed my daughter. He's 
a liar and a coward a traitor ! He killed her! " 

There was no doubt of her emotion now. She 
stood in a strange attitude, leaning a little to- 
ward him in the upper part of her body, as if 
all her strength were consciously directed into 
her shoulders and neck. She seemed larger in 
her arms and shoulders ; they, with her head and 



ACTION BY THE SHERIFF 69 

face, were, he thought, the most vivid part of 
her an effect which she produced deliberately, 
to impress him. 

Her whole body was not tremulous, but, 
rather, vibrant, a taut mechanism played on by 
the rage that possessed her. Her eyebrows, high 
on her forehead, reminded him of things that 
crawled. Her eyes, brilliant like clear ice with 
sunshine on it, were darting, furtive, always in 
motion. 

She did not look him squarely in the eye, but 
her eyes selected and bored into every part 
of his face ; her glance played on his countenance. 
He could easily have imagined that it burned 
him physically in many places. 

"All this talk about Gene Russell's being 
guilty is stuff, bosh ! " she continued. " Gene 
wouldn't hurt anybody. He couldn't! Wait 
until you see him ! " Her lips curled momen- 
tarily to their thickened, wet sneer. " There's 
nothing to him nothing! Mildred hated him; 
he bored her to death. Even I laughed at him. 
And this sheriff talks about the boy's having 
killed her!" 

Suddenly, she partially controlled her fury. 
He saw her eyes contract to the gleam of a new 
idea. She was silent a moment, while her 
vibrant, tense body swayed in front of him al- 
most imperceptibly. 



70 " NO CLUE ! " 

When she spoke again, it was in her flat, con- 
strained tone. He was impressed anew with 
her capacity for making her feeling subordinate 
to her intelligence. 

" She's a dangerous woman," he thought again. 

" You're working for Webster? " 

Her inquiry came after so slight a pause, and 
it was put to him in a manner so different from 
the unrestraint of her denunciation of Webster, 
that he felt as he would have done if he had 
been dealing with two women. 

" I've told you already," he said, " my only 
interest is in finding the real murderer. In that 
sense, I'm working for Webster if he's inno- 
cent." 

" But he didn't hire you? " 

" No." 

Seeing that he told the truth, she indulged 
herself in rage again. It was just that, Hastings 
thought; she took an actual, keen pleasure in 
giving vent to the anger that was in her. Re- 
lieved of the necessity of censoring her words 
and thoughts closely, she could say what she 
wanted to say. 

" He's guilty, and I'll prove it ! " she defied 
the detective's disbelief. " I'll help to prove it. 
Guilty? I tell you he is guilty as hell ! " 

He made an abrupt departure, her shrill ha- 
tred ringing in his ears when he reached the 



ACTION BY THE SHERIFF 71 

street. He found it hard, too, to get her out of 
his eyes, even now she had impressed herself 
so shockingly upon him. The picture of her 
floated in front of him, above the shimmering 
pavement, as if he still confronted her in all 
her unloveliness, the smooth, white face like a 
travesty on youth, the swift, darting eyes, the 
hard, straight lines of the lean figure, the cold 
deliberation of manner and movement. 

" She's incapable of grief ! " he thought. " Ter- 
rible! She's terrible!" 

Lally drove him to his apartment on Fifteenth 
street, where the largest of three rooms served 
him as a combination library and office. There 
he kept his records, in a huge, old-fashioned 
safe; and there, also, he held his conferences, 
from time to time, with police chiefs and de- 
tectives from all parts of the country when they 
sought his help in their pursuit of criminals. 

The walls were lined with books from floor 
to ceiling. A large table in the centre of the 
room was stacked high with newspapers and 
magazines. Dusty papers and books were piled, 
too, on several chairs set against the bookcases, 
and on the floor in one corner was a pyramid of 
documents. 

" This place is like me," he explained to vis- 
itors ; " it's loosely dressed." 

He sat down at the table and wrote instruc- 



72 "NO CLUE!" 

tions for one of his two assistants, his best man, 
Hendricks. Russell's room must be searched and 
Russell interviewed work for which Hastings 
felt that he himself could not spare the time. 
He gave Hendricks a second task: investigation 
of the financial standing of two people: Berne 
Webster and Mrs. Catherine Brace. 

He noted, with his customary kindness, in his 
memorandum to Hendricks : 

" Sunday's a bad day for this sort of work, 
but do the best you can. Report tomorrow 
morning." 

That arranged, he set out for Sloanehurst, 
to keep his promise to Lucille he would be there 
for the inquest. 

On the way he reviewed matters : 

" Somehow, I got the idea that the Brace 
woman knew Russell hadn't killed her daughter. 
Funny, that is. How could she have known that? 
How can she know it now? 

"She's got the pivotal fact in this case. I 
felt it. I'm willing to bet she persuaded her 
daughter to pursue Webster. And things have 
gone ' bust ' didn't come out as she thought 
they would. What was she after, money? That's 
exactly it! Exactly! Her daughter could hold 
up Webster, and Webster could hold up the 
Sloanes after his marriage." 

He whistled softly. 



ACTION BY THE SHEKIFF 73 

" If she can prove that Webster should have 
married her daughter, that he's in need of any- 
thing like sixty-five thousand dollars where 
does he get off? He gets off safely if the Braee 
woman ever sees fit to tell what? I couldn't 
guess if my whittling hand depended on it." He 
grimaced his repugnance. 

" What a woman ! A mania for wickedness 
evil from head to foot, thoroughly. She 
wouldn't stick at murder if she thought it safe. 
She'd do anything, say anything. Every word 
she uttered this morning had been rehearsed in 
her mind with gestures, even. When I beat 
her, I beat this puzzle; that's sure." 

That he had to do with a puzzle, he had no 
manner of doubt. The very circumstances sur- 
rounding the discovery of the girl's body 
Arthur Sloane flashing on the light in his room 
at a time when his being awake was so unusual 
that it frightened his daughter; Judge Wilton 
stumbling over the dead woman; young Web- 
ster doing the same thing in the same instant; 
the light reaching out to them at the moment 
when they bent down to touch the thing which 
their feet had encountered all that shouted mys- 
tery to his experienced mind. 

He thought of Webster's pronouncement t 
"The thug, acting on the spur of the moment, 
with a blow in the dark and a getaway through 



74 "NO CLUE!" 

the night " Here was reproduction of that 

in real life. Would people say that Webster 
had given himself away in advance? They might. 

And the weapon, what about that? It could 
have been manufactured in ten minutes. Crown 
had said over the wire that Russell's nail file 
was missing. What if Webster's, too, were miss- 
ing? He would see although he expected to 
uncover no such thing. 

He came, then, to Lucille's astounding idea, 
that her father must be " protected," because 
he was nervous and, being nervous, might incur 
the enmity of the authorities. He could not 
take that seriously. And yet the most fruitful 
imagination in the world could fabricate no mo- 
tive for Arthur Sloane's killing a young woman 
he had never seen. 

Only Webster and Russell could be saddled 
with motives : Webster's, desperation, the savage 
determination to rid himself of the woman's pur- 
suit ; Russell's, unreasoning jealousy. 

So far as facts went, the crime lay between 
those two and he could not shake off the im- 
pression that Mrs. Brace, shrilly asserting Rus- 
sell's innocence, had known that she spoke the 
absolute truth. 



VII 

THE HOSTILITY OF MR. SLOANE 

DELAYED by a punctured tire, Hastings 
reached Sloanehurst when the inquest 
was well under way. He went into the 
house by a side door and found Lucille Sloane 
waiting for him. 

" Won't you go to father at once? " she urged 
him. 

" What's the matter? " He saw that her anxi- 
ety had grown during his absence. 

" He's in one of his awfully nervous states. 
I hope you'll be very patient with him make 
allowances. He doesn't seem to grasp the 1m- 
portance of your connection with the case ; wants 
to ask questions. Won't you let me take you to 
him, now? " 

" Why, yes, if I can be of any help. What do 
you want me to say to him ? " 

As a matter of fact, he was glad of the oppor- 
tunity for the interview. He had long since dis- 
covered the futility of inquests in the uncovering 
of important evidence, and he had not intended 
to sit through this one. He wanted particularly 

75 



76 "NO CLUE!" 

to talk to Berne Webster, but Sloane also had 
to be questioned. 

" I thought you might explain," she continued 
hurriedly, preceding him down the hall toward 
her father's room, " that you will do exactly what 
I asked you to do see that the mysterious part 
of this terrible affair, if there is any mystery 
in it see that it's cleared up promptly. Please 
tell him you'll act for us in dealing with news- 
paper reporters; that you'll help us, not annoy 
us, not annoy him." 

She had stopped at Sloane's door. 

" And you? " Hastings delayed her knock. 
" If they want you to testify, if Dr. Garnet calls 
for you, I think you'd better testify very frankly, 
tell them about the footsteps you heard." 

"I've already done that." She seemed em- 
barrassed. "Father asked me to 'phone Mr. 
Southard, Mr. Jeremy Southard, his lawyer, 
about it. I know I told you I wanted your 
advice about everything. I would have waited 
to ask you. But you were late. I had to take 
Mr. Southard's advice." 

" That's perfectly all right," he reassured her. 
"Mr. Southard advised you wisely. Now, I'm 
going to ask your help. The guest-rooms up- 
stairs have the servants straightened them up 
this morning? " 

They had not, she told him. Excitement had 



THE HOSTILITY OF MR. SLOANE 77 

quite destroyed their efficiency for the time be- 
ing; they were at the parlour windows, listen- 
ing, or waiting to be examined by the coroner. 

" That's what I hoped," he said. " Won't you 
see that those rooms are left exactly as they are 
until I can have a look at them ? " She nodded 
assent. "And say nothing about my speaking 
of it absolutely nothing to anybody? It's 
vitally important." 

The door was opened by Sloane's man, Jarvis, 
who had in queer combination, Hastings thought, 
the salient aspects of an undertaker and an ex- 
perienced pick-pocket. He was dismal of coun- 
tenance and alert in movement, an efficient ghost, 
admirably appropriate to the twilit gloom of the 
room with its heavily shaded windows. 

Mr. Sloane was in bed, in the darkest corner. 

" Father," Lucille addressed him from the 
door-sill, " I've asked Mr. Hastings to talk to 
you about things. He's just back from Wash- 
ington." 

" Shuddering saints ! " said Mr. Sloane, not 
lifting his head from the pillows. 

Lucille departed. The ghostly Jarvis closed 
the door without so much as a click of the latch. 
Hastings advanced slowly toward the bed, his 
eyes not yet accustomed to the darkness. 

" Shuddering, shivering, shaking saints ! " Mr. 
Sloane exclaimed again, the words coming in a 



78 "NO CLUE!" 

slow, shrill tenor from his lips, as if with great 
exertion he reached up with something and 
pushed each one out of his mouth. " Sit down, 
Mr. Hastings, if I can control my nerves, and 
stand it. What is it? '_' 

His hostility to the caller was obvious. The 
evident and grateful interest with which the 
night before he had heard the detective's stories 
of crimes and criminals had changed now to 
annoyance at the very sight of him. As a 
raconteur, Mr. Hastings was quite the thing; 
as protector of the Sloane family's privacy and 
seclusion, he was a nuisance. Such was the im- 
pression Mr. Hastings received. 

At a loss to understand his host's frame of 
mind, he took a chair near the bed. 

Mr. Sloane stirred jerkily under his thin sum- 
mer coverings. 

"A little light, Jarvis," he said peevishly. 
"Now, Mr. Hastings, what can I do for tell 
you?" 

Jarvis put back a curtain. 

" Quivering and crucified martyrs ! " the pros- 
trate man burst forth. " I said a little, Jarvis ! 
You drown my optic nerves in ink and, without 
a moment's warning, flood them with the glaring 
brilliancy of the noonday sun ! " Jarvis half- 
drew the curtain. "Ah, that's better. Never 
more than an inch at a time, Jarvis. How many 



THE HOSTILITY OF MR. SLOANE 79 

times have I told you that? Never give me a 
shock like that again; never more than an inch 
of light at a time. Frantic fiends! From cim- 
merian, abysmal darkness to Sahara-desert 
glare!" 

" Yes, sir," said Jarvis, as if on the point of 
digging a grave for himself. " Beg pardon, 
sir." 

He effaced himself, in shadows, somewhere 
behind Hastings, who seized the opportunity to 



" Miss Sloane suggested that you wanted cer- 
tain information. In fact, she asked me to see 
you." 

"My daughter? Oh, yes!" The prone body 
became semi-upright, leaned on an elbow. " Yes ! 
What I want to know is, why why, in the name 
of all the jumping angels, everybody seems to 
think there's a lot of mystery connected with 
this brutal, vulgar, dastardly crime! It passes 
my comprehension, utterly! Jarvis, stop click- 
ing your finger-nails together ! " This with a 
note of exaggerated pleading. " You know I'm 
a nervous wreck, a total loss physically, and yet 
you stand there in the corner and indulge your- 
self wickedly, wickedly, in that infernal habit 
of yours of clicking your finger-nails ! Mute and 
mutilated Christian martyrs ! " 

He fell back among the pillows, breathing 



80 "NO CLUE!" 

heavily, the perfect picture of exhaustion. Jar- 
vis came near on soundless feet and applied a 
wet cloth to his master's temples. 

The old man regarded them both with uncon- 
cealed amazement. 

"You'll have to excuse me, Mr. Hastings, 
really, I can't be annoyed ! " the wreck, somewhat 
revived, announced feebly. "All I said to my 
daughter, Miss Sloane, is what I say to you now : 
I see no reason why we should employ you, or 
indeed why you should be connected with this 
affair. You were my guest, here, at Sloanehurst. 
Unfortunately, some ruffian of whom we never 
heard, whose existence we never suspected Jar- 
vis, take off this counterpane; you're boiling me, 
parboiling nae; my nerves are seething, simmer- 
ing, stewing! Athletic devils! Have you no 
discrimination, Jarvis? as I was saying, Mr. 
Hastings, somebody stabbed somebody else to 
death on my lawn, unfortunately marring your 
visit. But that's all. I can't see that we need 
you thank you, nevertheless." 

The dismissal was unequivocal. Hastings got 
to his feet, his indignation all the greater through 
realization that he had been sent for merely to 
be flouted. And yet, this man's daughter had 
come to him literally with tears in her eyes, 
had begged him to help her, had said that money 
was the smallest of considerations. Moreover, 



THE HOSTILITY OF MR. SLOANE 81 

he had accepted her employment, had made the 
definite agreement and promise. Apparently, 
Sloane was in no condition to act independently, 
and his daughter had known it, had hoped that 
he, Hastings, might soothe his silly mind, do 
away with his objections to assistance which 
she knew he needed. 

There was, also, the fact that Lucille believed 
her father unaccountably interested, if not im- 
plicated, in the crime. He could not get away 
from that impression. He was sure he had 
interpreted correctly the girl's anxiety the night 
before. She was working to save her father 
from something. And she believed Berne Web- 
ster innocent. 

These were some of the considerations which, 
flashing through his mind, prevented his giving 
way to righteous wrath. He most certainly 
would not allow Arthur Sloane to eliminate him 
from the situation. He sat down again. 

The nervous wreck made himself more under- 
standable. 

" Perhaps, Jarvis," he said, shrinking to one 
side like a man in sudden pain, " the gentleman 
can't see how to reach that large door. A little 
more light, half an inch not a fraction more ! " 

" Don't bother," Hastings told Jarvis. " I'm 
not going quite yet." 

" Leaping crime ! " moaned Mr. Sloane, dig- 



82 "NO CLUE!" 

ging deeper into the pillows. "Frantic 
imps!" 

" I hope I won't distress yon too much," the 
detective apologized grimly, " if I ask you a few 
questions. Fact is, I must. I'm investigating 
the circumstances surrounding what may turn 
out to be a baffling crime, and, irrespective of 
your personal wishes, Mr. Sloane, I can't let go 
of it. This is a serious business " 

The sick man sat up in bed with surprising 
abruptness. 

" Serious business ! Serious saints ! Jarvis, 
the eau de cologne! You think I don't know 
it? They make a slaughter-house of my lawn. 
They make a morgue of my house. They hold 
a coroner's inquest in my parlour. They're in 
there now live people like ravens, and one dead 
one. They cheat the undertaker to plague me. 
They wreck me all over again. They give me 
a new exhaustion of the nerves. They frighten 
my daughter to death. Jarvis, the smelling 
salts. Shattered saints, Jarvis! Hurry! 
Thanks. They rig up lies which, Tom Wilton, 
my old and trusted friend, tells me, will incrimi- 
nate Berne Webster. They sit around a corpse 
in my house and chatter by the hour. You come 
in here and make Jarvis nearly blind me. 

"And, then, then, by the holy, agile angels! 
you think you have to persuade me it's a serious 



THE HOSTILITY OF ME. SLOANE 83 

business ! Never fear ! I know it ! Jarvis, the 
bromide, quick ! Before I know it, they'll drive 
me to opiates. Serious business! Shrivelled 
and shrinking saints ! " 

Arms clasped around his legs, knees pressed 
against his chin, Mr. Sloane trembled and shook 
until Jarvis, more agile than the angels of whom 
his employer had spoken, gave him the dose of 
bromides. 

Still, Mr. Hastings did not retire. 

" I was going to say," he resumed, in a tone 
devoid of compassion, " I couldn't drop this 
thing now. I may be able to find the murderer ; 
and you may be able to help me." 

"I?" 

" Yes." 

" Isn't it Russell? He's among the ravens 
now, in my parlour. Wilton told me the sheriff 
was certain Russell was the man. Murdered 
martyrs! Sacrificed saints! Can't you let a 
guilty man hang when he comes forward and 
puts the rope around his own worthless neck? " 

" If Russell's guilty," Hastings said, glad of 
the information that the accused man was then 
at Sloanehurst, " I hope we can develop the nec- 
essary evidence against him. But " 

" The necessary " 

"Let me finish, Mr. Sloane, if you please! " 
The old man was determined to disregard the 



84 NO CLUE ! " 

other's signs of suffering. He did not believe 
that they were anything but assumed, the exag- 
gerated camouflage which he usually employed 
as an excuse for idleness. " But, if Russell isn't 
guilty, there are facts which may help me to 
find the murderer. And you may have valuable 
information concerning them." 

" Sobbing, sorrowing saints ! " lamented Mr. 
Sloane, but his trembling ceased; he was closely 
attentive. " A cigarette, Jarvis, a cigarette ! 
Nerves will be served. I suppose the easiest way 
is to submit. Go on." 

" I shall ask you only two or three questions," 
Hastings said. 

The jackknife-like figure in the bed shuddered 
its repugnance. 

" I've been told, Mr. Sloane, that Mr. Webster 
has been in great need of money, as much as 
sixty-five thousand dollars. In fact, according 
to my information, he needs it now." 

"Well, did he kill the woman, expecting to 
find it in her stocking? " 

" The significance of his being hard-pressed, 
for so large an amount," the old man went on, 
ignoring the sarcasm, " is in the further charge 
that Miss Brace was trying to make him marry 
her, that he should have married her, that he 
killed her in order to be free to marry your 
daughter for money." 



THE HOSTILITY OF MR. SLOANE 85 

" My daughter ! For money ! " shrilled 
Sloane, neck elongated, head thrust forward, 
eyes bulging. " Leaping and whistling cheru- 
bim ! " For all his outward agitation, he seemed 
to Hastings in thorough command of his logical 
faculties; it was more than possible, the detec- 
tive thought, that the expletives were time-killers, 
until he could decide what to say. " It's ridicu- 
lous, absurd! Why, sir, you reason as loosely 
as you dress! Are you trying to prostrate me 
further with impossible theories? Webster 
marry my daughter for money, for sixty-five 
thousand dollars? He knows I'd let him have 
any amount he wanted. I'd give him the money 
if it meant his peace of mind and Lucille's hap- 
piness. Dumb and dancing devils! Jarvis, 
a little whiskey! I'm worn out, worn 
out!" 

" Did you ever tell Mr. Webster of the ex- 
tent of your generous feeling toward him, Mr. 
Sloane in dollars and cents? " 

" No ; it wasn't necessary. He knows how 
fond of him I am." 

" And you would let him have sixty-five thou- 
sand dollars if he had to have it? " 

" I would, sir ! today, this morning." 

" Now, one other thing, Mr. Sloane, and I'm 
through. It's barely possible that there was 
some connection between this murder and a let- 



86 "NO CLUE!" 

ter which came to Sloanehurst yesterday after- 
noon, a letter in an oblong grey envelope. 
Did " 

The nervous man went to pieces again, beat 
with his open palms on the bed covering. 

" Starved and stoned evangels, Jarvis ! Quit 
balling your feet! You stand there and see me 
harassed to the point of extinction by a lot of 
crazy queries, and you indulge yourself in that 
infernal weakness of yours of balling your feet ! 
Leaping angels ! You know how acute my hear- 
ing is ; you know the noise of your sock against 
the sole of your shoe when you ball your feet 
is the most exquisite torture to me! A little 
whiskey, Jarvis ! Quick ! " He spoke now in a 
weak, almost inaudible voice to Hastings : " No ; 
I got no such letter. I saw no such letter." He 
sank slowly back to a prone posture. 

" I was going to remind you," the detective 
continued, " that I brought the five o'clock mail 
in. Getting off the car, I met the rural carrier ; 
he asked me to bring in the mail, saving him 
the few steps to your box. All there was con- 
sisted of a newspaper and one letter. I recall 
the shape and colour of the envelope oblong, 
grey. I did not, of course, look at the address. 
I handed the mail to you when you met me 
on the porch." 

Mr. Sloane, raising himself on one elbow to 



THE HOSTILITY OF MR. SLOANE 87 

take the restoring drink from Jarvis, looked 
across the glass at his cross-examiner. 

" I put the mail in the basket on the hall 
table," he said in high-keyed endeavour to ex- 
press withering contempt. " If it had been for 
me, Jarvis would have brought it to me later. 
I seldom carry my reading glasses about the 
house with me." 

Hastings, subjecting the pallid Jarvis to severe 
scrutiny, asked him: 

" Was that grey letter addressed to whom? " 

" I didn't see it," replied Jarvis, scarcely 
polite. 

" And yet, it's your business to inspect and 
deliver the household's mail? " 

"Yes, sir." 

"What became of it, then the grey envel- 
ope? " 

" I'm sure I can't say, sir, unless some one 
got it before I reached the mail basket." 

Hastings stood up. Interrogation of both mas- 
ter and man had given him nothing save the 
inescapable conviction that both of them re- 
sented his questioning and would do nothing to 
help him. The reason for this opposition he 
could not grasp, but it was a fact, challenging 
his analysis. Arthur Sloan e rejected his prof- 
fered help in the pursuit of the man who had 
brought murder to the doors of Sloanehurst. 



88 "NO CLUE!" 

Why? Was this his method of hiding facts in 
his possession? 

Hastings questioned him again: 

" Your waking up at that unusual hour last 
night was it because of a noise outside? " 

The neurasthenic, once more recumbent, suc- 
ceeded in voicing faint denial of having heard 
any noises, outside or inside. Nor had he been 
aware of the murder until called by Judge Wil- 
ton. He had turned on his light to find the 
smelling-salts which, for the first time in six 
years, Jarvis had failed to leave on his bed-table, 
terrible and ill-trained apes! Couldn't he be 
left in peace? 

The hall door opened, admitting Judge Wil- 
ton. The newcomer, with a word of greeting 
to Hastings, sat down on the bedside and put 
a hand on Sloane's shoulder. 

Hastings turned to leave the room. 

"Any news? " the judge asked him. 

" I've just been asking Mr. Sloane that," Hast- 
ings said, in a tone that made Wilton look 
swiftly at his friend's face. 

" I told Arthur this morning," he said, " how 
lucky he was that you'd promised Lucille to go 
into this thing." 

"Apparently," Hastings retorted drily, "he's 
unconvinced of the extent of his good for- 
tune." 



THE HOSTILITY OF MB. SLOANE 89 

Mr. Sloane, quivering from head to foot, 
mourned softly : " Unfathomable fate ! " 

Wilton, his rugged features softening to frank 
amusement, stared a moment in silence at 
Sloane's thin face, at the deeply lined forehead 
topped by stringy grey hair. 

" See here, Arthur," he protested, nodding 
Hastings an invitation to remain ; " you know as 
much about crime as Hastings and I. If you've 
thought about this murder at all, you must see 
what it is. If Russell isn't guilty if he's not the 
man, that crime was committed shrewdly, with 
forethought. And it was a devilish thing dev- 
ilish ! " 

" Well, what of it? " Sloane protested shrilly, 
not opening his eyes. 

" Take my advice. Quit antagonizing Mr. 
Hastings. Be thankful that he's here, that he's 
promised to run down the guilty man." 

Mr. Sloane turned his face to the wall. 

"A little whiskey, Jarvis," he said softly. 
" I'm exhausted, Tom. Leave me alone." 

Wilton waved his hand, indicative of the futil- 
ity of further argument. 

"Judge," announced Hastings, at the door, 
" I'll ask you a question I put to Mr. Sloane. 
Did you receive, or see, a letter in an oblong, 
grey envelope in yesterday afternoon's 
mail?" 



90 "NO CLUE!" 

" No. I never get any mail while I'm here 
for a week-end." 

Wilton followed the detective into the hall. 

" I hope yon're not going to give up the case, 
Hastings. You won't pay any attention to 
Arthur's unreasonable attitude, will you? " 

" I don't know," Hastings said, still indignant. 
" I made my bargain with his daughter. I'll see 
her." 

" If you can't manage any other way, I or 
she will get any information you want from 
Arthur." 

" I hope to keep on. It's a big thing, I think." 
The old man was again intent on solving the 
problem. " Tell me, judge; do you think Berne 
Webster's guilty?" Seeing the judge's hesi- 
tance, he supplemented : " I mean, did you no- 
tice anything last night, in his conduct, that 
would indicate guilt or fear? " 

Later, when other developments gave this 
scene immense importance, Hastings, in review- 
ing it, remembered the curious little flicker of 
the judge's eyelids preceding his reply. 

" Absolutely not," he declared, with emphasis. 
" Are you working on that " he hesitated hardly 
perceptibly " idea? " 



VIII 

THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY 

ANCESTORS of the old family from whom 
Arthur Sloane had purchased this colonial 
mansion eight years ago still looked out 
of their gilded frames on the parlour walls, their 
high-bred calm undisturbed, their aristocratic 
eyes unwidened, by the chatter and clatter of 
the strangers within their gates. Hastings no- 
ticed that even the mob and mouthing of a 
coroner's inquest failed to destroy the ancient 
atmosphere and charm of the great room. He 
smiled. The pictured grandeur of a bygone 
age, the brocaded mahogany chairs, the tall 
French mirrors all these made an incongruous 
setting for the harsh machinery of crime-in- 
quiry. 

The detective had completed his second and 
more detailed search of the guest-rooms in time 
to hear the words and study the face of the 
last witness on Dr. Garnet's list. That was 
Eugene Russell. 

" One of life's persimmons long before 
frost! " Hastings thought, making swift ap- 

91 



92 " NO CLUE ! " 

praisal. "A boneless spine chin like a sheep 
brave as a lamb." 

Russell could not conceal his agitation. In 
fact, he referred to it. Fear, he explained in a 
low, husky voice to the coroner and the jury, 
was not a part of his emotions. His only feeling 
was sorrow, varied now and then by the embar- 
rassment he felt as a result of the purely per- 
sonal and very intimate facts which he had to 
reveal. 

His one desire was to be frank, he declared, 
his pale blue eyes roving from place to place, 
his nervous fingers incessantly playing with his 
thin, uncertain lips. This mania for truthful- 
ness, he asserted, was natural, in that it offered 
him the one sure path to freedom and the es- 
tablishment of his innocence of all connection 
with the murder of the woman he had loved. 

He was, he testified, thirty-one years old, a 
clerk in a real-estate dealer's office and a native 
of Washington. Mildred Brace had been em- 
ployed for a few weeks by the same firm for 
which he worked, and it was there that he had 
met her. Although she had refused to marry 
him on the ground that his salary was inade- 
quate for the needs of two people, she had en- 
couraged his attentions. Sometimes, they had 
quarrelled. 

" Speak up, Mr. Russell ! " Dr. Garnet di- 



THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY 93 

rected. " And take your time. Let the jury 
hear every word you utter." 

After that, the witness abandoned his attempt 
to exclude the family portraits from his confi- 
dence, but his voice shook. 

" Conductor Barton is right," he said, re- 
sponding to the coroner's interrogation. " I did 
come out on his car, the car that gets to the 
Sloanehurst stop at ten-thirty, and I did leave 
the car at the Ridgecrest stop, a quarter of a 
mile from here. I was following Mil Miss 
Brace. I saw her leave her apartment house, 
the Walman. I followed her to the transfer sta- 
tion at the bridge, and I saw her take the car 
there. I followed on the next car. I knew where 
she was going, knew she was going to Sloane- 
hurst." 

" How did you know that, Mr. Russell? " 

" I mean I was certain of it. She'd told me 
Mr. Berne Webster, the lawyer she'd been work- 
ing for, was out here spending the week-end; 
and I knew she was coming out to meet him." 

" Why did she do that? " 

Mr. Russell displayed pathetic embarrass- 
ment and confusion before he answered that. He 
plucked at his lower lip with spasmodic fingers. 
His eyes were downcast. He attempted a self- 
deprecatory smile which ended in an unpleasant 
grimace. 



94 "NO CLUE!" 

" She wouldn't say. But it was because she 
was in love with him." 

" And you were jealous of Mr. Webster? " 

" We-e 1 ! yes, sir; that's about it, I guess." 

" Did Miss Brace tell you she was coming to 
Sloanehurst? " 

" No, sir. I suspected it." 

" And watched her movements? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" And followed her? " 

" Yes." 

"Why did you think she was in love with 
Mr. Webster, Mr. Russell? And please give 
us a direct answer. You can understand 
the importance of what you're about to 
say." 

" I do. I thought so because she had told me 
that he was in love with her, and because of 
her grief and anger when he dismissed her from 
his office. And she did everything to make me 
think so, except declaring it outright. She did 
that because she knew I hated to think she was 
in love with him." 

"All right, Mr. Russell. Now, tell us what 
happened during your ah shadowing Miss 
Brace the night she was killed." 

" I got off the car at Ridgecrest and walked 
toward Sloanehurst. It was raining then, pretty 
hard. I thought she had made an appointment 



THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY 95 

to meet Mr. Webster somewhere in the grounds 
here. It was a quarter to eleven when I got to 
the little side-gate that opens on the lawn out 
there on the north side of the house." 

" How did you know that? " 

" I looked at mv watch then. It's got a lumi- 
nous dial." 

"You were then at the gate near where she 
was found, dead? " 

" Yes. And she was at the gate." 

" Oh ! So you saw her? " 

" I saw her. When I lifted the latch of the 
gate, she came toward me. There was a heavy 
drizzle then. I thought she had been leaning on 
the fence a few feet away. She whispered, sharp 
and quick, ' Who's that? ' I knew who she was, 
right off. I said, < Gene.' 

" She caught hold of my arm and shook it. 
She told me, still whispering, if I didn't get 
away from there, if I didn't go back to town, 
she'd raise an alarm, accuse me of trying to kill 
her or she'd kill me. She pressed something 
against my cheek. It felt like a knife, although 
I couldn't see, for the darkness." 

The witness paused and licked his dry lips. 
He was breathing fast, and his restless eyes had 
a hunted look. The people in the room leaned 
farther toward him, some believing, some doubt- 
ing him. 



96 "NO CLUE!" 

Hastings thought : " He's scared stiff, but tell- 
ing the truth so far." 

"All right; what next?" asked Dr. Garnet, 
involuntarily lowering his voice to Russell's 
tone. 

" I accused her of having an appointment to 
meet Webster there. I got mad. I hate to have 
to tell all this, gentlemen; but I want to tell 
the truth. I told her she was a fool to run after 
a man who'd thrown her over. 

" ' It's none of your look-out what I do ! ' she 
told me. ' You get away from here, now this 
minute ! You'll be sorry if you don't ! ' There 
was something about her that frightened me, 
mad as I was. I'd never seen her like that 
before." 

" What do you mean? " Garnet urged him. 

" I thought she would kill me, or somebody 
else would, and she knew it. I got the idea 
that she was like a crazy woman, out of her 
head about Webster, ready to do anything des- 
perate, anything wild. I can't explain it any 
better than that." 

" And did you leave her? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" At once? " 

"Practically. A sort of panic got hold of 
me. I can't explain it, really." 

Russell, seeking an illuminative phrase, gave 



THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY 97 

vent to a long-drawn, anxious sigh. He ap- 
peared to feel no shame for his flight. His fear 
was that he would not be believed. 

" Just as she told me a second time to leave 
her, I thought I heard somebody coming to- 
ward us, a slushy, dull sound, like heavy foot- 
steps on the wet grass. Mildred's manner, her 
voice, had already scared me. 

" When I heard those footsteps, I turned and 
ran. My heart was in my mouth. I ran out 
to the road and back toward Washington. I ran 
as fast as I could. Twice I fell on my hands 
and knees. I can't tell you exactly how it was, 
why it was. I just knew something terrible 
would happen if I stayed there. I never had 
a feeling like that before. I was more afraid 
of her than I was of the man coming toward 
us." 

Members of the jury pushed back their chairs, 
were audible with subdued exclamations and 
long breaths, relieved of the nervous tension to 
which Russell's story of the encounter at the 
gate had lifted them. They were, however, 
prejudiced against him, a fact which he grasped. 

One of them asked him: 

" Can you tell us why you followed her out 
here? " 

" Why? " Russell echoed, like a man seeking 
time for deliberation. 



98 " NO CLUE ! " 

"Yes. What did you think you'd do after 
you'd overtaken her? " 

" Persuade her to go back home with me. I 
wanted to save her from doing anything foolish 
anything like that, you know." 

" But, from what you've told us here this 
morning, it seems you never had much influence 
on her behaviour. Isn't that true? " 

" I suppose it is. But," Russell added eagerly, 
" I can prove I had no idea of hurting her, if 
that's what you're hinting at. I can prove I 
never struck her. At twenty minutes past eleven 
last night I was four miles from here. Mr. 
Otis, a Washington commission merchant, picked 
me up in his automobile, six miles outside of 
Washington and took me into town. I couldn't 
have made that four miles on foot, no matter 
how I ran, in approximately fifteen or twenty 
minutes. 

" It's been proved that she was struck down 
after eleven anyway. You said the condition 
of the body showed that, doctor. You see, I 
would have had to make the four miles in less 
than twenty minutes an impossibility. You 
see?" 

His eagerness to win their confidence put a 
disagreeable note, almost a whimper, into his 
voice. It grated on Dr. Garnet. 

It affected Hastings more definitely. 



THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY 99 

" Now," he decided, " he's lying about some- 
thing. But what? " He noted a change in Rus- 
sell's face, a suggestion of craftiness, the merest 
shadow of slyness over his general attitude of 
anxiety. And yet, this part of his story seemed 
straight enough. 

Dr. Garnet's next question brought out the 
fact that it would be corroborated. 

"This Mr. Otis, Mr. Russell; where is 
he?" 

" Right there, by the window," the witness an- 
swered, with a smug smile which gave him a 
still more unprepossessing look. 

Jury and spectators turned toward the man 
at the window. They saw a clean-shaven, alert- 
looking person of middle age, who nodded 
slightly in Russell's direction as if endorsing 
his testimony. There seemed no possible 
grounds for doubting whatever Otis might say. 
Hastings at once accepted him as genuine, an 
opinion which, it was obvious, was shared by 
the rest of the assemblage. 

Russell sensed the change of sentiment toward 
himself. Until now, it had been a certainty that 
he would be held for the murder. But his pro- 
ducing an outsider, incontestably a trustworthy 
man, to establish the truth of his statement that 
he had been four miles away from the scene 
of the crime a quarter of an hour after it had 



100 " NO CLUE ! " 

been committed that was something in his fa- 
vour which could not be gainsaid. 
. Granting even that he had had an automobile 
at his disposal a supposition for which there 
was no foundation his alibi would still have 
been good, in view of the rain and the fact that 
one of the four miles in question was " dirt 
road." 

With the realization of this, the jury swung 
back to the animus it had felt against Webster, 
the incredulity with which it had received his 
statement that there had been between him and 
the dead woman no closer relationship than that 
of employer and employe. 

Webster, seated near the wall furthest from 
the jury, felt the inquiry of many eyes upon 
him, but he was unmoved, kept his gaze on Rus- 
sell. 

Dr. Garnet, announcing that he would ask 
Mr. Otis to testify a little later, handed Russell 
the weapon with which Mildred Brace had been 
murdered. 

" Have you ever seen that dagger before? " 
he asked. 

Russell said he had not. Reminded that Sheriff 
Crown had testified to searching the witness's 
room and had discovered that a nail file was 
missing from his dressing case, a file which, 
judging by other articles in the case, must have 



THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY 101 

been the same size as the one used in making 
the amateur dagger, Kussell declared that his 
file had been lost for three years. He had left 
it in a hotel room on the only trip he had ever 
taken to New York. 

He gave way to Mr. Otis, who described him- 
self as a commission merchant of Washington. 
Returning from a tour to Lynchburg, Virginia, 
he said, he had been hailed last night by a man 
in the road and had agreed to take him into 
town, a ride of six miles. Reaching Washington 
shortly before midnight, he had dropped his pas- 
senger at Eleventh and F streets. 

" Who was this passenger? " inquired Garnet. 

" He told me," said Otis, " his name was Eu- 
gene Russell. I gave him my name. That ex- 
plains how he was able to find me this morning. 
W^hen he told me how he was situated, I agreed 
to come over here and give you gentlemen the 
facts." 

" Notice anything peculiar about Mr. Russell 
last night? " 

"No; I think not." 

" Was he agitated, disturbed? " 

" He was out of breath. And he commented 
on that himself, said he'd been walking fast. 
Oh, yes ! He was bareheaded ; and he explained 
that said the rain had ruined a cheap straw 
hat he had been wearing; the glue had run out 



102 "NO CLUE!" 

of the straw and down his neck, he had thrown 
the hat away." 

"And the time? When did you pick him 
up?" 

" It was twenty minutes past eleven o'clock. 
When I stopped, I glanced at my machine clock ; 
I carry a clock just above my speedometer." 

Mr. Otis was positive in his statements. He 
realized, he said, that his words might relieve 
one man of suspicion and bring it upon another. 
Unless he had been absolutely certain of his 
facts, he would not have stated them. He was 
sure, beyond the possibility of doubt, that he 
had made no mistake when he looked at his 
automobile clock; it was running when he 
stopped and when he reached Washington; yes, 
it was an accurate timepiece. 

Russell's alibi was established. His defence 
appealed to the jurymen as unassailable. When, 
after a conference of less than half an hour, they 
brought in a verdict that Mildred Brace had been 
murdered by a thrust of the " nail-file dagger " 
in the hands of a person unknown, nobody in 
the room was surprised. 

And nobody was blind to the fact that the free- 
ing of Eugene Russell seriously questioned the 
innocence of Berne Webster. 



IX 

THE BREAKING DOWN OF WEBSTER 

HASTINGS, sprawling comfortably in a 
low chair by the south window in the 
music room, stopped his whittling when 
Berne Webster came in with Judge Wilton. 
" Meddlesome Mike ! " thought the detective. 
" I sent for Webster." 

" Berne asked me to come with him," the judge 
explained his presence at once. " We've talked 
things over ; he thought I might help him bring 
out every detail jog his memory, if necessary." 

Hastings did not protest the arrangement. He 
saw, almost immediately, that Webster had come 
with no intention of giving him hearty coopera- 
tion. The motive for this lack of frankness he 
could not determine. It was enough that he 
felt the younger man's veiled antagonism and 
appreciated the fact that Wilton accompanied 
him in the role of protector. 

"If I'm to get anything worth while out of 
this talk," he decided, " I've got to mix up my 
delivery, shuffle the cards, spring first one thing 
and then another at him bewilder him." 

103 



104 "NO CLUE!" 

He proceeded with that definite design : at an 
opportune time, he would guide the narrative, 
take it out of Webster's hands, and find out 
what he wanted to know, not merely what the 
young lawyer wanted to tell. He recognized the 
necessity of breaking down the shell of self-con- 
trol that overlaid the suspected man's uneasi- 



That it was only a shell, he felt sure. Web- 
ster, leaning an elbow lightly on the piano, 
looked down at him out of anxious eyes, and 
continually passed his right hand over his 
smooth, dark-brown hair from forehead to crown, 
a mechanical gesture of his when perplexed. 

His smile, too, was forced, hardly more than 
a slight, fixed twist of the lips, as if he strove 
to advertise hib ability to laugh at danger. His 
customary dash, a pleasing levity of manner, was 
gone, giving place to a suggestion of strain, so 
that he seemed always on the alert against him- 
self, determined to edit in advance his answer 
to every question. 

Wilton had chosen a chair which placed him 
directly opposite Hastings and at the same time 
enabled him to watch Webster. He was smok- 
ing a cigar, and, through the haze that floated 
up just then from his lips, he gave the detective 
a long, searching look, to which Hastings paid 
no attention. 



THE BREAKING DOWN OP WEBSTER 105 

Webster talked nearly twenty minutes, ex- 
plaining his eagerness to be " thoroughly frank 
as to every detail," reviewing the evidence 
brought out by the inquest, and criticising the 
action of the jury, but producing nothing new. 
Occasionally he left the piano and paced the 
floor, smoking interminably, lighting the fresh 
cigarette from the stub of the old, obviously 
strung to the limit of his nervous strength. 
Hastings detected a little twitching of the mus- 
cles at the corners of his mouth, and the too 
frequent winking of his eyes. 

Judge Wilton had told him, Webster con- 
tinued, of Mrs. Brace's charge that he wanted 
to marry Miss Sloane because of financial pres- 
sure; there was not a word of truth in it; he 
had already arranged for a loan to make that 
payment when it fell due. He was, however, 
aware of his unenviable position, and he wanted 
to give the detective every assistance possible, 
in that way assuring his own prompt relief from 
embarrassment. 

By this time, Hastings had mapped out his 
line of questioning, his assault on Webster's reti- 
cence. 

"That's the right idea! " he said, getting to 
his feet. " Let's go to work." 

They saw the change in him. Instead of the 
genial, drawling, slow-moving old fellow who 



106 "NO CLUE!" 

had seemed thankful for anything he might 
chance to hear, they were confronted now by 
an aroused, quick-thinking man whose words 
came from him with a sharp, clipped-off effect, 
and whose questions scouted the whole field of 
their possible and probable information. He 
stood leaning his elbows- on the other end of the 
piano, facing Webster across the polished length 
of its broad top. His dominance of the night 
before, in the library, had returned. 

"Now, Mr. Webster," he began, innocent of 
threat, " as things stack up at present, only two 
people had the semblance of a motive for killing 
Mildred Brace either Eugene Kussell killed her 
out of jealousy of you ; or you killed her to 
silence her demands. Do you see that?" 

He had put back his head a little and was 
peering at Webster under his spectacle-rims, 
down the line of his nose. He saw how the other 
fought down the impulse to deny, hesitating be- 
fore answering, with a laugh on a high note, like 
derision : 

" I suppose that's what a lot of people will 
say." 

" Precisely. Now, I've just had a talk with 
this Russell caught him after the inquest. I 
believe there's something rotten about that alibi 
of his; but I couldn't shake him; and the Otis 
testimony's sound. So we'll have to quit count' 



THE BREAKING DOWN OF WEBSTER 107 

ing on Russell's proving his own guilt. We've 
got that little job on our hands, and the best 
way to handle it is to prove your jnnocence. 
See that? " 

The bow with which Webster acknowledged 
this statement was a curious mingling of grace 
and mockery. The detective ignored it. 

" And," he continued, " there's only one way 
for you to come whole out of this muddle 
frankness. I'm working for you; you know 
that. Tell me everything you know, and we've 
got a chance to win. The innocent man who 
tries to twist black into white is an innocent 
fool." He looked swiftly to Wilton, who was 
leaning far back in his chair, head lolling slowly 
from side to side, the picture of indifference. 
" Isn't that so, judge? " 

" Quite," Wilton agreed, pausing to remove 
his cigar from his mouth. 

"Of course, it's so," Webster said curtly. 
" I've just told you so. That's why I've decided 
the judge and I have talked it over to give 
you something in confidence." 

" One moment ! " Hastings warned him. 
" Maybe, I won't take it in confidence if it's 
something incriminating you." 

"Yes; you've phrased that unfortunately, 
Berne," the judge put in, tilting his head on 
the chair-back to meet the detective's look. 



108 "NO CLUE!" 

Webster was nonplussed. Apparently, his sur- 
prise came from the judge's remark rather than 
from the detective's refusal to assume the rdle 
of confidant. Hastings inferred that Wilton, 
agreeing beforehand to the proposal being ad- 
vanced, had changed his mind after entering the 
room. 

" Hastings is right," the judge concluded ; 
" even if he's on your side, you can't expect him 
to be tied up blind that way by a suspected man 
and you're just that, Berne." 

Seeing Webster's uncertainty, Hastings took 
another course. 

" I think I know what you're talking about, 
Mr. Webster," he said, matter-of-fact. "Your 
nail-file's missing from your dressing case dis- 
appeared since yesterday morning." 

" You know that ! " Berne flashed, suddenly 
angry. " And you're holding it over me ! " 

Open hostility was in every feature of his 
face; his lips twitched to the sharp intake of 
his breath. 

"Why don't you look at it another way?" 
the old man countered quickly. " If I'd told 
the coroner about it if I'd told him also that 
the size of that nail-file, judging from the rest 
of the dressing case, matched that of the one 
used for the blade of the dagger, matched it as 
well as Russell's what then? " 



THE BREAKING DOWN OF WEBSTER 109 

" He's right, Berne," Wilton cautioned again. 
" He's taken the friendly course." 

" I understand that, judge," Berne said ; and, 
without answering Hastings, turned squarely to 
Wilton : " But it's a thin clue. He admits Rus- 
sell lost a nail-file, too." 

" Several years ago," Hastings goaded, so that 
Webster pivoted on his heel to face him ; " you 
lost yours when? last night? this morning?" 

" I don't know ! I noticed its absence this 
morning." 

" There you are ! But," Hastings qualified, to 
avoid the quarrel, " the nail-file isn't much of a 
clue if unsupported." He approached cordiality. 
"And I appreciate your intending to tell me. 
That was what you intended to give me in con- 
fidence, wasn't it? " 

"Yes," Webster answered, half -sullen. 

Hastings changed the subject again. 

" Did you know Mildred Brace intended to 
clear out, leave Washington, today? " 

" Why, no! " Webster shot that out in genu- 
ine surprise. 

" I got it from Russell," Hastings informed, 
and went at once to another topic. 

" And that brings us to the letter. Judge Wil- 
ton tell you about that? " 

Webster was lighting a cigarette, with diffi- 
culty holding the fire of the old one to the end 



110 "NO CLUE!" 

of the new. The operation seemed to entail hard 
labour for him. 

" In the grey envelope? " he responded, draw- 
ing on the cigarette. " Yes. I didn't get it." 

He took off his coat. The heat oppressed him. 
'At frequent intervals he passed his handkerchief 
around the inside of his collar, which was wilt- 
ing. Now, more than ever, he gave the im- 
pression of exaggerated watchfulness, as if he 
attempted prevision of the detective's questions. 

" Nobody got it, so far as I can learn," Hast- 
ings said, a note of sternness breaking through 
the surface of his tone. " It vanished into thin 
air. That's the most mysterious thing about 
this mysterious murder." 

He, in his turn, began pacing the floor, a short 
distance to and fro in front of Judge Wilton's 
chair, his hands behind him, flopping the baggy 
tail of his coat from side to side. 

"You doubtless see the gravity of the facts: 
that letter was mailed to Sloanehurst. Russell 
has just told me so. She waved it in his face, 
to taunt him about you, before she dropped it 
into the mail-box, He swears" Hastings 
stopped, at the far end of his pacing, and looked 
hard at Webster " it was addressed to you." 

Webster, again with his queer, high-pitched 
laugh, like derision, threw back his head and 
took two long strides toward the centre of the 



THE BREAKING DOWN OF WEBSTER 111 

room. There he stood a moment, hands in his 
pockets, while he stared at the toe of his right 
shoe, which he was carefully adjusting to a crack 
in the flooring. 

Judge Wilton made his chair crackle as he 
moved to look at Webster. It was the weight 
of the detective's gaze, however, that drew the 
lawyer's attention; when he looked up, his eyes 
were half-closed, as if the light had suddenly 
become painful to them. 

" That would be Russell's game, wouldn't it? " 
he retorted, at last. 

" Mrs. Brace told me the same thing," Hast- 
ings said quietly, flashing a look at Wilton and 
back to the other. 

" Damn her ! " Webster broke forth with such 
vehemence that Wilton stared at him in amaze- 
ment. " Damn her ! And that's the first time I 
ever said that of a woman. It's as I suspected, 
as I expected. She's begun some sort of a 
crooked game ! " 

He trembled like a man with a chill. Hastings 
gave him no time to recover himself. 

"You know Mrs. Brace, then? Know her 
well?" he pressed. 

" Well enough ! " Webster retorted with hot 
repugnance. "Well enough, although I never 
had but one conversation with her if you may 
call that bedlam wildness a conversation. She 



112 " NO CLUE ! " 

came to my office the second day after I'd dis- 
missed her daughter. She made a scene. She 
charged me with ruining her daughter's life, 
threatened suit for breach of promise. She said 
she'd * get even ' with me if it took her the rest 
of her life. I don't as a rule pay much attention 
to violent women, Mr. Hastings ; but there was 
something about her that affected me strongly, 
she's implacable, and like stone, not like a 
woman. You saw her understand what I 
mean? " 

"Perfectly," agreed Hastings. 

There flashed across his mind a picture of that 
incomprehensible woman's face, the black line 
of her eyebrows lifted half-way to her hair, the 
abnormal wetness of her lips thickened by a 
sneer. " If she's been after this man for two 
weeks," he thought, " I can understand his 
trembles ! " 

But he hurried the inquiry. 

" So you think she lied about that letter? " 

" Of course ! " Webster laughed on a high 
note. " Next, I suppose, she'll produce the let- 
ter." 

" She can't very well do that." 

Something in his voice alarmed the suspected 
man. 

" What do you mean? " he asked. 

Hastings smiled. 



THE BREAKING DOWN OP WEBSTER 113 

" What do you mean? " Webster asked again, 
his voice lowered, and came a step nearer to 
the detective. 

Hastings took a piece of paper from his 
pocket. 

" Here's the flap of the grey envelope," he 
said, as if that was all the information he meant 
to impart. 

Webster urged him, with eyes and voice : 

"Well?" 

"And on the back of it is some of Mildred 
Brace's handwriting." 

The old man examined the piece of paper with 
every show of absorption. He could hear Web- 
ster's hurried breathing, and the gulp when he 
swallowed the lump in his throat. 

The scene had got hold of Wilton also. Lean- 
ing forward in his chair, his lips half-parted, the 
thumb and forefinger of his right hand mechani- 
cally fubbing out his cigar, so that a little stream 
of fire trickled to the floor, he gazed unwinking 
at the envelope flap. 

Webster went a step nearer to Hastings, and 
stood, passing his hand across the top of his 
head and staring again out of his half-closed 
eyes, as if the light had hurt them. 

" And," the old man said, regarding Webster 
keenly but keeping any hint of accusation out 
of his voice, " I found it last night in the fire- 



114 "NO CLUE!" 

place, behind the screen, in your room up- 
stairs." 

He paused, looking toward the door, his atten- 
tion caught by a noise in the hall. 

Webster laughed, on the high, derisive note. 
He was noticeably pale. 

" Come, man ! " Judge Wilton said, harsh and 
imperious. " Can't you see the boy's suffering? 
What's written on it?" 

" What difference does it make the writing? " 
Webster objected, with a movement of his shoul- 
ders that looked like a great effort to pull him- 
self together. " If there's any at all, it's faked. 
Faked! That's what it is. People don't write 
on the inside of envelope flaps." 

His face did not express the assurance he 
tried to put into his voice. He went back to the 
piano and. leaned on it, his posture such that 
it might have indicated a nonchalant ease or, 
equally well, might have betrayed his desperate 
need of support. 

" This letter incident can't be waved away," 
Hastings, without handing over the scrap of 
envelope, proceeded in even, measured tones 
using his sentences as if they were hammers with 
which he assailed the young lawyer's remnants 
of self-control. " You're not trifling with a jury, 
Mr. Webster. I believe I know as much about 
the value of facts, this kind of facts, as you 



THE BKEAKING DOWN OF WEBSTER 115 

do. Consider what you're up against. You ' : 

Webster put up a hand in protest, the fingers 
so unsteady that they dropped the cigarette 
which he had been on the point of lighting. 

" Just a moment ! " the old man commanded 
him. " This Mildred Brace claimed she had suf- 
fered injury at your hands. You fired her out 
of your office. She and her mother afterwards 
pursued you. She came out here in the middle 
of the night, where she knew you were. She 
was murdered, and by a weapon whose blade 
may have been fashiond from an article you pos- 
sessed, an article which is now missing, missing 
since you came to Sloanehurst this time. You 
were found bending over the dead body. 

" Her mother and her closest friend, her 
would-be fiance', say she wrote to you Friday 
night, addressing her letter to Sloanehurst. The 
flap of an envelope, identified by her mother and 
friend, and bearing the impression in ink of 
her handwriting, is found in the fireplace of your 
room here. The man who followed her out here, 
who might have been suspected of the murder, 
has proved an alibi 

" Now, I ask you, as a lawyer and a sensible 
man, who's going to believe that she came out 
here without having notified you of her coming? 
Who, as facts stand now, is going to believe 
anything but that you, desperate with the fear 



116 "NO CLUE!" 

that she would make revelations which would 
prevent your marriage to Miss Sloane and keep 
you from access to an immense amount of money 
which you needed who's going to believe you 
didn't kill her, didn't strike her down, there 
in the night, according to a premeditated plan, 
with a dagger which, for better protection of 
yourself, you had manufactured in a way which 
you hoped would make it beyond identification? 
Who's " 

Wilton intervened again. 

" What's your object, Hastings? " he de- 
manded, springing from his chair. " You're 
treating Berne as if he'd killed the woman and 
you could prove it ! " 

Webster was swaying on his feet, falling a 
little away from the piano and reeling against 
it again, his elbows sliding back and forth on 
its top. He was extremely pale; e^en his lips, 
still stiff and twisted to what he thought was 
a belittling smile, were white. He looked at 
the detective as a man might gaze at an ad- 
vancing terror which he could neither resist 
nor flee. His going to pieces was so complete, 
so absolute, that it astonished Hastings. 

" And you, both of you," the old man retorted 
to Wilton's protest; "you're treating me as if 
I, were a meddlesome outsider intent on 'fram- 
ing up ' a case, instead of the representative of 



THE BREAKING DOWN OF WEBSTER 117 

the Sloane family at least, of Miss Lucille 
Sloane! Why's that?" 

" Tell me what's on that paper," Webster said 
hoarsely, as if he had not heard the colloquy of 
the other two. 

He held up a trembling hand, but without 
taking a step. He still swayed, like a man 
dangled on strings, against the piano. 

" Yes; tell him! " urged Wilton. 

Hastings handed Webster the envelope flap. 
Instead of looking at it, Webster let it drop 
on the piano. 

" One of the words," Hastings said, " is ' pur- 
suit.' The other two are uncompleted." 

" And it's her handwriting, the daughter's? " 
Wilton said. 

" Beyond a doubt." 

Webster kept his unwinking eyes on the detec- 
tive, apparently unable to break the spell that 
held him. For a long moment, he had said 
nothing. When he did speak, it was with mani- 
fest difficulty. His words came in a screaming 
whisper : 

"Then, I'm in desperate shape!" 

" Nonsense, man ! " Judge Wilton protested, 
his voice raised, and, going to his side, struck 
him sharply between the shoulders. " Get your- 
self together, Berne ! Brace up ! " 

The effect on the collapsing man was, in a way, 



118 "NO CLUE!" 

magical. He stood erect in response to the blow, 
his elbows no longer seeking support on the 
piano. He got his eyes away from Hastings and 
looked at the judge as a man coming out of a 
sound sleep might have done. For a few sec- 
onds, he had one hand over his mouth, as if, by 
actual manipulation, he would gain control of 
the muscles of his lips. 

" I feel better," he said at last, dropping the 
hand from before his face and squaring his shoul- 
ders. " I don't know what hit me. If I'd you 
know," he hesitated, frowning, " if I'd killed the 
woman, I couldn't have acted the coward more 
thoroughly." 

Hastings went through with what he wanted 
to say: 

"About that letter, Mr. Webster: have you 
any idea, can you advance any theory, as to how 
that piece of the envelope got into your room? " 

Webster was passing his hand across his hair 
now, and breathing in a deep, gusty fashion. 

" Not the faintest," he replied, hoarsely. 

" That's all, then, gentlemen ! " Hastings said, 
so abruptly that both of them started. " We 
don't seem to have gone very far ahead with this 
business. W T e won't, until you particularly 
you, Webster tell me what you know. It's your 
own affair " 

" My dear sir " Judge Wilton began. 



THE BREAKING DOWN OF WEBSTER 119 

" Let me finish ! " Hastings spoke indignantly. 
" I'm no fool ; I know when I'm trifled with. 
Understand me: I don't say you got that letter, 
Mr. Webster ; I don't say you ever saw it ; I don't 
know the truth of it yet. I do say you've de- 
liberately refused to respond to my requests for 
cooperation. I do say you'd prefer to have me 
out of this case altogether. I know it, although 
I'm not clear as to your motives or yours, 
judge. You were anxious enough, you said when 
we talked at Sloane's door, for me to go on 
with it. If you're still of that opinion, I advise 
you to advise your friend here to be more out- 
spoken with me. I'll give you this straight: 
if I can't be corn, I won't be shucks. But I 
intend to be corn. I'm going to conduct this 
investigation as I see fit. I won't be turned 
aside ; I won't play second to your lead ! " 

He was fine in his intensity. Astounded by 
his vehemence, the two men he addressed were 
silent, meeting his keen and steady scrutiny. 

He smiled, and, as he did so, they were aware, 
with an emotion like shock, that his whole face 
mirrored forth a genuine and warm self-satisfac- 
tion. The thing was as plain as if he had spoken 
it aloud : he had gotten out of the interview what 
he wanted. Their recognition of this fact in- 
creased their blankness. 

" You know my position now," he added, no 



120 "NO CLUE!" 

longer denunciatory. " If you change your 
minds, that will be great! I want all the help 
I can get. And, take it from me, young man, 
you can't afford to throw away any you can 
get." 

Threats? " 

Webster had shot out the one word with cool 
insolence before the judge could begin a concil- 
iatory remark. The change in the lawyer's man- 
ner was so unpleasant, the insult so palpably 
deliberate, that Hastings could not mistake the 
purpose back of it. Webster regarded him out 
of burning eyes. 

" No ; not threats," Hastings answered him in 
a voice that was cold as ice. " I think you un- 
derstand what I mean. I know too little, and 
I suspect too much, to drop my search for the 
murderer of that woman." 

Judge Wilton tried to placate him : 

" I don't see what your complaint is, Hast- 
ings. We " 

A smothered, half -articulate cry from Webster 
interrupted him. Hastings, first to spring for- 
ward, caught the falling man by his arm, break- 
ing the force of the fall. He had clutched the 
edge of the piano as his legs gave under him. 
That, and the quickness of the detective, made 
the fall more like a gentle sliding to the floor. 

Save for the one, gurgling outcry, no word 



THE BREAKING DOWN OF WEBSTER 121 

came from him. He was unconscious, his colour- 
less lips again twisted to that poor semblance 
of smiling defiance which Hastings had noticed 
at the beginning of the interview. 



THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE 

DR. GARNET, reaching Sloanehurst half 
an hour later, found Webster in complete 
collapse. He declared that for at least 
several days the sick man must be kept quiet. 
He could not be moved to his apartment in Wash- 
ington, nor could he be subjected to questioning 
about anything. 

"That is," he explained, "for three or four 
days possibly longer. He's critically ill. But 
for my knowledge of the terrific shock he's sus- 
tained as a result of the murder, I'd be inclined 
to say he'd broken down after a long, steady 
nervous strain. 

" I'll have a nurse out to look after him. 
Miss Sloane has volunteered, but she has troubles 
of her own." 

Judge Wilton took the news to Hastings, who 
was on the front porch, whittling, waiting to 
see Lucille before returning to Washington. 

" I think Garnet's right," Wilton added. " I 
thought, even before last night, Berne acted as 
if he'd been worn out. And you handled him 
122 



THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE 123 

rather roughly. That sort of questioning, tan- 
talizing, keeping a man on tenterhooks, knocks 
the metal out of a high-strung temperament like 
his. I don't mind telling you it had me pretty 
well worked up." 

" I'm sorry it knocked him out," Hastings 
said. " All I wanted was the facts. He wasn't 
frank with me." 

" I came out here to talk about that," Wilton 
retorted, brusquely. " You're all wrong there, 
Hastings! The boy's broken all to pieces. He 
sees clearly, too clearly, the weight of suspicion 
against him. You've mistaken his panic for 
hostility toward yourself." 

The old man was unconvinced, and showed it. 

" Suspicion doesn't usually knock a man into 
a cocked hat unless there's something to base 
it on," he contended. 

"All right; I give up," Wilton said, with a 
short laugh. " All I know is, he came to me be- 
fore we saw you in the music room, and told 
me he wanted me to be there, to see that he 
omitted not even a detail of what he knew." 

Hastings, looking up from the intricate pat- 
tern he was carving, challenged the judge : 

" Has it occurred to you that, if he's not guilty, 
he might suspect somebody else in this house, 
might be trying to shield that person? " 

In the inconsiderable pause that followed, 



124 "NO CLUE!" 

Wilton's lips, parting for an incredulous smile, 
showed the top of his tongue against his teeth, 
as if set for pronunciation of the letter " S." 
Hastings, in a mental flash, saw him on the 
point of exclaiming : " Sloane ! " But, if that 
was in his mind, he put it down, elaborating the 
smile to a laughing protest : 

" That's going far afield, isn't it? " 

Hastings smiled in return : " Maybe so, but it's 
a possibility and possibilities have to be dealt 
with." 

" Which reminds me," the judge said, now all 
amiability ; " don't forget I'm always at your 
service in this affair. I see now that you might 
have preferred to question Webster alone, in 
the music room ; but my confidence in his inno- 
cence blinded me to the fact that you could 
regard him as actually guilty. I expected noth- 
ing but a friendly conference, not a fierce cross- 
examination." 

" It didn't matter at all," Hastings matched 
Wilton's cordial tone; "and I appreciate your 
offer, judge. Suppose you tell me anything that 
occurs to you, anything that will throw light on 
this case any time; and I'll act as go-between 
for you with the authorities if necessary." 

"You mean ?" 

" I'd like to do the talking for this family and 
its friends. I can work better if I can handle 



THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE 125 

things myself. The half of my job is to save 
the Sloanes from as many wild rumours as I 
can." 

Wilton nodded approval. 

" How about Arthur? You want me to take 
any questions to him for you? " 

"No; thanks. But," Hastings added, "you 
might make him see the necessity of telling me 
what he saw last night. If he doesn't come 
out with it, he'll make it all the harder on Web- 
ster." 

" I don't think he saw anything." 

" Didn't he? Why'd he refuse to testify be- 
fore the coroner, then? " 

Sheriff Crown's car came whirling up the 
driveway; and Hastings spoke hurriedly: 

" You know he's not as sick as he makes out. 
He's got to tell me what he knows, judge! He's 
holding back something. That's why he wants 
to make me so mad I'll quit the case. Who's 
he shielding? That's what people will want to 
know." 

Wilton pondered that. 

" I'll see what I can do," he finally agreed. 
" According to you, it may appear people may 
suspect that Webster's guilty or shielding 
somebody else; and Arthur's guilty or shield- 
ing Webster!" 

When Mr. Crown reached the porch, they 



126 "NO CLUE!" 

were discussing Webster's condition, and Hast- 
ings, with the aid of the judge's penknife, was 
tightening a screw in his big barlowesque blade. 
They were careful to say nothing that might 
arouse the sheriff's suspicion of their compact 
an agreement whereby a private detective, 
and not the law's representative, was to have 
the benefit of all the judge's information bear- 
ing on the murder. 

Mr. Crown, however, was dissatisfied. 

" I'm tied up ! " he complained, nursing with 
forefinger and thumb his knuckle-like chin. 
" The only place I can get information is at the 
wrong end Russell ! " 

" What's the matter with me? " the detective 
asked amiably. " I'll be glad to help if you 
think I can." 

"What good's that to me?" He wore his 
best politician's smile, but there was resentment 
in his voice. " Your job is keeping things quiet 
for Sloanehurst. Mr. Sloane's ill, too ill to 
see me without endangering his life, so his 
funeral-faced valet tells me. Miss Lucille says, 
politely enough, she's told all she knows, told 
it on the stand, and I'm to go to you if I want 
anything more from her. The judge here knows 
nothing about the inside relationships of the 
family and Webstei, or of Webster and the 
Brace girl. And Webster's down and out, thor- 



THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE 127 

oughly and conveniently ! If all that don't catch 
your uncle Robert where the hair's short, I'll 
quit!" 

"What do you want to know?" Hastings 
countered. " You've had access to everything, 
far as I can see." 

Reply to that was delayed by the appearance 
of Jarvis, summoning the judge to Arthur 
Sloane's room. 

" I want to get at Webster," Crown told Hast- 
ings. " And here's why : if Russell didn't kill 
her, Webster did." 

" Why, you've weakened! " the old man guyed v 
head bent over his whittling. " You had Rus- 
sell's goose cooked this morning roasted to a 
rich, dark brown ! " 

" Yes ; and if I could break down his alibi, 
I'd still have him cooked!" 

"You accept the alibi, then?" 

" Sure, I accept it." 

"I don't." 

"Why don't you?" objected Crown. "He 
didn't have an aeroplane in his hip pocket, did 
he? That's the only way he could have cov- 
ered those four miles in fifteen minutes. Or 
does his alibi have to fall in order to save Miss 
Sloane's fiance'? " 

He slapped his ^thigh and thrust out his 
bristly moustache. " You're paid to fasten the 



128 "NO CLUE!" 

thing on Russell," he said, clearly pugnacious. 
" I don't expect you to help me work against 
Webster! I'm not that simple!" 

The old man, with a gesture no more arrest- 
ing than to point at the sheriff with the piece 
of wood in his left hand, made the official jaw 
drop almost to the official chest. 

" Mr. Crown," he said, " get this, once and 
for all : a man ain't necessarily a crook because 
he's once worked for the government. I'm as 
anxious to find the guilty man now, every time, 
as when I was in the Department of Justice. 
And I intend to. From now on, you'll give me 
credit for that! Won't you, Mr. Sheriff?" 

Crown apologized. " I'm worried ; that's 
what. I'm up a gum stump and can't get dow T n." 

" All right, but don't try to make a lad- 
der out of me! Why don't you look into that 
alibi? " 

Crown was irritated again. "What do you 
stick to that for? " 

" Because," Hastings declared, " I'm ready to 
8wear-and-cross-my-heart he lied when he said 
he ran that four miles. I'm ready to swear he 
was here when the murder was done. When 
a man's got as good an alibi as he said he had, 
his adam's-apple don't play ' Yankee Doodle ' 
on his windpipe." 

"Is that so!" 



THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE 129 

" It is and here's another thing : when's Mrs. 
Brace going to break loose? " 

" Now, you're talking ! " agreed Crown, with 
momentary enthusiasm. " She told me this 
morning she'd help me show up Webster she 
wouldn't have it that Russell killed the girl. 
Foxy business ! Mixed up in it herself, she runs 
to the rescue of the man she " 

The sheriff paused, unable to bring that rea- 
soning to its logical conclusion. 

"No," he said, dejected; " I can't believe she 
put him up to murdering her daughter." 

" That woman," Hastings said, " is capable 
of anything anything! We're going to find 
she's terrible, I tell you, Crown. She's mixed 
up in the murder somehow and, if you don't 
find out how, I will ! " 

" How can we get her? " Crown argued. 
" She was in her flat when the killing was 
done. We've searched these grounds, and found 
nothing to incriminate anybody. All we've got 
is a strong suspicion against two men. She's 
out and away." 

" Not if we watch her. She's promised to 
make trouble she'll be lucky if she makes none 
for herself. Let's keep after her." 

"I'm on! But," the sheriff reminded, again 
half-hearted, " that won't get us anything soon. 
She won't leave her flat before the funeral." 



130 "NO CLUE!" 

" That won't keep her quiet very long," Hast- 
ings contended. " She told me the funeral 
would be at nine o'clock tomorrow morning 
from an undertaker's. Anyway, I've instructed 
one of my assistants to keep track of her. I'm 
not counting on her grief absorbing her, even 
for today." 

But he saw that Crown was not greatly im- 
pressed with the possibility of finding the mur- 
derer through Mrs. Brace. The sheriff was en- 
grossed in mental precautions against being mis- 
led by " the Sloanehurst detective." 

He was still in that mood when Miss Sloane 
sent for Hastings. 

The detective found her in the music room. 
She had taken the chair which Judge Wilton 
had occupied an hour before, and was leaning 
one elbow on an arm of it, her chin resting 
in the cup of her hand. Her dress a filmy 
lavender so light that it shaded almost to pink, 
and magically made to bring out the grace of 
her figure drew his attention to the slight sag 
of her shoulders, suggestive of great weariness. 

But he was captivated anew by her grave 
loveliness, and by her fortitude. She betrayed 
her agitation only in the fine tremour in her 
hands and a certain slowness in her words. 

On the porch, talking to Judge Wilton, he 
had wondered, in a moment of irritation, why 



THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE 131 

he continued on the case against so much ap- 
parent opposition in the very household which 
he sought to help. He knew now that neither 
his sense of duty nor his fee was the deciding 
influence. He stayed because this girl needed 
him, because he had seen in her eyes last night 
the haggard look of an unspeakable suspicion. 
" You wanted to see me is there anything 
special? " she asked him, immediately alert. 

" Yes ; there is, Miss Sloane," he said, careful 
to put into his voice all the sympathy he felt 
for her. 

" Yes? " She was looking at him with steady 
eyes. 

" It's this, and I want you to bear in mind 
that I wouldn't bring it up but for my desire 
to put an end to your uncertainty: I'm afraid 
you haven't told me everything you know, every- 
thing you saw last night in " 

When she would have spoken, he put up a 
warning hand. 

" Let me explain, please. Don't commit your- 
self until you see what I mean. Judge Wilton 
and Mr. Webster seem to think I'm not needed 
here. It may be a natural attitude for them. 
They're both lawyers, and to lawyers a mere 
detective doesn't amount to much." 

" Oh, I'm sure it isn't that," she flashed out, 
apologizing. 



132 "NO CLUE!" 

" Oh, I don't mind, personally," he said, with 
a smile for which she felt grateful. " As I say, 
it's natural for them to think that way, perhaps. 
Your father, however, is not a lawyer; and, 
when I went into his room at your request, he 
took pains to offend me, insult me, several 
times." That brought a faint flush to her face. 
" So, that leaves only you to give me facts 
which I must have if they exist." 

He became more urgent. 

"And you employed me, Miss Sloane; you 
appealed to me when you were at a loss where 
to turn. I'm only fair to myself as well as 
to you when I tell you that your distress, far 
more than financial considerations, persuaded 
me to undertake this work without first consult- 
ing your father." 

She leaned toward him, bending from the 
waist, her eyes slightly widened, so that their 
effect was to give her a startled air. 

" You don't mean you'll give it up ! " she 
said, plainly entreating. "You won't give it 
up!" 

"Are you quite sure you don't want me to 
give it up? Judge Wilton has asked me twice, 
out of politeness, not to give it up. Are you 
merely being polite? " 

She smiled, looking tired, and shook her head. 

" Really, Mr. Hastings, if you were to desert 



THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE 133 

us now, I should be desperate altogether. Des- 
perate! Just that." 

" I can't desert you," he said gently. "As I 
told Mr. Webster, I know too little and I sus- 
pect too much to do that." 

Before she spoke again, she looked at him 
intently, drawing in her under lip a little 
against her teeth. 

" What, Mr. Hastings? " she asked, then. 
" What do you suspect? " 

" Let me answer that with a question," he 
suggested. " Last night, your one idea was that 
I could protect you and your father, everybody 
in the house here, by acting as your spokes- 
man. I think you wanted to set me up as 
a buffer between all of you on the one side 
and the authorities and the reporters on the 
other. You wanted things kept down, nothing 
to get out beyond that which was unavoidable. 
Wasn't that it?" 

" Yes ; it was," she admitted, not seeing where 
his question led. 

" You were afraid, then, that something in- 
criminating might be divulged, weren't you? " 

" Oh, no ! " she denied instantly. 

" I mean something which might seem incrim- 
inating. You trusted the person whom it would 
seem to incriminate; and you wanted time for 
the murderer to be found without, in the mean- 



134 "NO CLUE!" 

time, having the adverse circumstance made 
public. Isn't that it, Miss Sloane? " 

" Yes practically." 

" Let's be clear on that. Your fear was that 
too much questioning of you or the other per- 
son might result in a slip-up might make you 
or him mention the apparently damaging 
incident, with disastrous effect. Wasn't that 
it?" 

"Yes; that was it." 

" Now, what was that apparently incrimi- 
nating incident? " 

She started. He had brought her so directly 
to the confession that she saw now the impos- 
sibility of withholding what he sought. 

" It may be," he tried to lighten her respon- 
sibility, " the very thing that Webster and the 
judge have concealed for I'm sure they're keep- 
ing something back. Perhaps, if I knew it, 
things would be easier. People closely affected 
by a crime are the last to judge such things 
accurately." 

She gave a long breath of relief, looking at 
him with perplexity nevertheless. 

" Yes I know. That was why I came to you 
last night in the beginning." 

"And it was about them, Webster and Wil- 
ton," he drew the conclusion for her, still en- 
couraging her with his smile, regarding her 



THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE 135 

over the rims of his spectacles with a fatherly 
kindness. 

She turned from him and looked out of the 
window. It was the middle of a hot, still day, 
no breeze stirring, and wonderfully quiet. For 
the moment, there was no sound, in the house 
or outside. 

" Oh ! " she cried, her voice a revelation of 
the extent to which her doubts had oppressed 
her. "It was like that, out there quiet, still ! 
If you could only understand ! " 

" My dear child," he said, " rely on me. The 
sheriff is bound to assert himself, to keep in 
the front of things; he's that kind of a man. 
He'll make an arrest any time, or announce that 
he will. Don't you see the danger? " He leaned 
forward and took her hand, a move to which 
she seemed oblivious. " Don't you see I 
must have facts to go on if I'm to help 
you? " 

At that, she disengaged her hand, and sat 
very straight, her face again a little turned 
from him. A twitch, like a shudder cut short, 
moved her whole body, so that the heel of her 
slipper rapped smartly on the floor. 

" I wish," she whispered dully, " I wish I 
knew what to do ! " 

" Tell me," he urged, as if he spoke to a 
child. 



136 "NO CLUE!" 

She showed him her face, very white, with 
sudden shadows under the eyes. 

" I must, I think ; I must tell you," she said, 
not much louder than the previous whisper. 
" You were right. I didn't tell the whole story 
of what I saw. Believe me, I didn't think it 
mattered. I thought, really, things would right 
themselves and explanations be unnecessary. 
But you knew didn't you? " 

" Yes. I knew." He realized her ordeal, 
helping her through it. " What were they do- 
ing? " 

She held her chin high. 

" It was all true, what I told you in the 
library, my being waked up by father's moving 
about, my going to the window, my seeing Berne 
and the judge facing each other across her 
there at the end of the awful yellow arm of 
light. But that wasn't all. The moment the 
light flashed on, the judge threw back his head 
a little, like a man about to cry out, shout for 
help. I am sure that was it. 

" But Berne was too quick for that. Berne 
put out his hand; his arm shot across her; and 
his hand closed the judge's mouth. The judge 
made no noise whatever, but he shook his head 
from side to side two or three times I'm not 
certain how many while Berne leant over the 
body and whispered to him. It seemed to 



THE WHISPERED CONFERENCE 137 

me I could almost hear the words, but I 
didn't. 

" Then Berne took his hand from the judge's 
mouth. I think, before that, the judge made a 
sign, tried to nod his head up and down, to 
show he would do as Berne said. Then, when 
they saw she was dead, they both hurried around 
the corner to the front of the house, and I heard 
them come in; I heard the judge call to father 
and run up to your room." 

She was alarmed then by the amazement and 
disapproval in his face. 

" Oh ! " she said, and this time she took his 
hand. " You see ! You see ! You don't under- 
stand! You think Berne killed her! " 

" I don't know," he said, wondering. " I must 
think." For the moment, indignation swept 
him. "Wilton! A judge, a judge! keeping 
quiet on a thing like that! I must think." 



XI 

MOTIVES REVEALED 

SHE let go his hand and, still leaning toward 
him, waited for him to speak. A confusion 
of misgivings assailed her she regretted 
having confided in him. If his anger embraced 
Berne as well as Judge Wilton, she had done 
nothing but harm ! 

Seeing her dismay, he tried again to reassure 
her. 

" But no matter ! " he minimized his own sense 
of shock. " I'm sure I'll understand if you'll tell 
me more your explanation." 

Obviously, the only inference he could draw 
from her story as she had told it was that 
Webster had killed the woman and, found bend- 
ing over her body, had sprung forward to silence 
the man who had discovered him. Nevertheless, 
it was equally evident that she was sincere in 
attributing to Webster a different motive for 
preventing the judge's outcry. Consideration 
of that persuaded Hastings that she could give 
him facts which would change the whole aspect 
of the crime. 

138 



MOTIVES REVEALED 139 

Her hesitance now made him uneasy ; he rec- 
ognized the necessity of increasing her reliance 
upon him. If she told him only a part of what 
she knew, he would be scarcely in a better posi- 
tion than before. 

" Naturally," he added, " you can throw light 
on the whole incident light by which I must 
be guided, to a great degree." 

" If Berne were not ill," she responded to 
that, " I wouldn't tell. It's because he's lying 
up there, his lips closed, unable to keep a look- 
out for developments, at the mercy of what the 
sheriff may do or say! That's why I feel so 
dreadfully the need of help, Mr. Hastings ! " 

She slid back in her chair, moving farther 
from him, as if his kindly gaze disconcerted 
her. 

" If he hadn't suffered this collapse, I should 
have left the matter to him, I think. But now 
now I can't ! " She straightened again, her 
chin up, the signal with her of final decision. 
" He acted on his impulsive desire to prevent 
my being shocked by that discovery that hor- 
ror out there on the lawn. Things had hap- 
pened to convince him that such a thing, shouted 
through the night, would be a terrific blow to 
me. I'm sure that that was the only idea he 
had when he put his hand over Judge Wilton's 
mouth." 



140 "NO CLUE!" 

" I can believe that," he said. " Tell me why 
you believe it." 

" Oh ! " she protested, hands clenched on her 
knees; "if it affected only him and me!" 

Her suspicion of her father recurred to him. 
It was, he thought, back of the terror he saw 
in her eyes now. 

" But it does affect only him and me, after 
all ! " she continued fiercely, as much to 
strengthen herself in what she wanted to believe 
as to force him to that belief. " Let me tell 
you the whole affair, from beginning to end." 

She proceeded in a low tone, the words slower, 
as if she laboured for precision and clarity. 

" I must go back to Friday the night before 
last it seems months ago! I had heard that 
Berne had become involved in some sort of 
relationship with his stenographer that she had 
been dismissed from his office and refused to 
accept the dismissal as final. I mean, of course, 
I heard she was in love with him, and he'd been 
in love with her or should have been. 

" It was told me by a friend of mine in Wash- 
ington, Lucy Carnly. It seems another stenog- 
rapher overheard the conversation between 
Berne and Miss Miss Brace. It got out that 
way. It was very circumstantial; I couldn't 
help believing it, some of it ; Lucy wouldn't have 
brought me idle gossip I thought." 



MOTIVES REVEALED 141 

She drew in her under lip, to hide its momen- 
tary tremour, and shook her head from side to 
side once. 

" All that, Mr. Hastings, came up, as a matter 
of course, when Berne reached here evening 
before last for the week-end. I'd just heard 
it that day. He denied it, said there had been 
nothing remotely resembling a love affair. He 
was indignant, and very hurt! He said she'd 
misconstrued some of his kindnesses to her. He 
couldn't explain how she had misconstrued 
them. At any rate, the result was that I broke 
our engagement. I " 

" Friday night ! " Hastings exclaimed invol- 
untarily. 

He grasped on the instant how grossly Web- 
ster, by withholding all this, had deceived him, 
left him in the dark. 

" Yes ; and I told father about it," she hurried 
her words here, the effect of her manner being 
the impression that she hoped this fact would 
not bulk too large in the detective's thoughts. 
" The three of us had a talk about it Friday 
night. Father's wonderfully fond of Berne and 
tried to persuade me I was foolishly ruining 
my life. I refused to change my mind. When 
I went upstairs, they stayed a long time in the 
library, talking. 

" I think they decided the best thing for Berne 



142 "NO CLUE!" 

was to stay on here, through yesterday and to- 
f day, in the hope that he and father might 
change my mind. Father tried to, yesterday 
morning. He was awfully upset. That's one 
reason he's so worn out and sick today. I love 
my father so, Mr. Hastings! " She held her lips 
tight-shut a moment, a sob struggling in her 
throat. " But my distress, my own hurt 
pride 

"What did your father say about Mildred 
Brace? " Hastings asked, when she did not finish 
that sentence. 

She looked at him, again with widened eyes, 
a startled air, putting both her hands to her 
throat. 

" There ! " she said, voice falling to a whisper. 

Then, turning her face half from him, she 
whispered so low that he heard her with diffi- 
culty : " I wish I were dead ! " 

Her words frightened him, they had so clearly 
the ring of truth, as if she would in sober fact 
have preferred death to the thought which 
was breaking her heart suspicion of her 
father. 

" That was why Berne stopped the judge's out- 
cry," she said at last, turning her white face 
to him ; " he had the sudden wild idea that I'm 
afraid you have that father might have killed 
her. And Berne did not want that awful fact 



MOTIVES EEVEALED 143 

screamed through the night at me. Oh, can't 
you see can't you see that, Mr. Hastings? " 

" It's entirely possible ; Mr. Webster may 
have thought that. But let's keep the story 
straight. What had your father said about 
Mildred Brace to arouse any such suspicion? " 

" He was angry, terribly indignant. You 
know I made no secret to you of his high tem- 
per. His rages are fierce. Once, when he was 
that way, I saw him kill a dog. If it had but 
I think all men who're unstrung nervously, as 
he is, have high tempers. He felt so indignant 
because she had come between Berne and my- 
self. He blamed neither Berne nor me. He 
seemed to concentrate all his anger upon her. 

" He said you see, Mr. Hastings, I tell you 

everything ! he threatened to go to her and 

He had, of course, no definite idea what he would 
do. Finally, he did say he would buy her off, 
pay her to leave this part of the country. After 
that, he said, he knew I would l see things 
clearly,' and Berne and I would be reconciled." 

Hastings remembered Russell's assertion that 
Mildred had her ticket to Chicago. 

" Did he buy her off? " he asked quickly. 

" Oh, no ; he was merely wishing that he could, 
I think." 

" But he made no attempt to get in touch 
with her yesterday? You're sure? " 



144 "NO CLUE!" 

" Quite," she said. " But don't you see. Mr. 
Hastings? Father was so intense in his hatred 
of her that Berne thought of him the moment 
he found that body out there. He thought 
father must have encountered her on the lawn 
in some way, or she must have come after him, 
and he, in a fit of rage, struck her down." 

" Has Webster told you this? " 

" No but it's true; it is! " 

"But, if your supposition is to hold good, 
how did your father happen to be in possession 
of that dagger, which evidently was made with 
malice aforethought, as the lawyers say? " 

" Exactly," she said, her lips quivering, hands 
gripping spasmodically at her knees. " He 
didn't do it! He didn't do it! Berne's idea 
was a mistake ! " 

"Who, then?" he pressed her, realizing now 
that she was so unstrung she would give him 
her thoughts unguarded. 

" Why, that man Russell," she said, her voice 
so low and the words so slow that he thought 
her at the limit of her endurance. " But I've 
said all this to show you why Berne put his 
hand over the judge's mouth. I want to make 
it very clear that he feared father think of 
it, Mr. Hastings ! had killed her! At first, I 
thought " 

She bowed her face in both her hands and 



MOTIVES REVEALED 145 

wept unrestrainedly, without sobs, the tears 
streaming between her fingers and down her 
wrists. 

The old man put one hand on her hair, and 
with the other brought forth his handkerchief, 
being bothered by the sudden mistiness of his 
spectacles. 

"A brave girl," he said, his own voice in- 
secure. " What a woman ! I know what you 
mean. At first, you feared your father might 
have been concerned in the murder. I saw it 
in your eyes last night. You had the same 
thought that young Webster had rather, that 
you say he had." 

Her weeping ceased as suddenly as it had be- 
gun. She looked at him through tears. 

" And I've only injured Berne in your eyes ; 
I think, irreparably! This morning I thought 
you heard me when I asked him not to let it be 
known that our engagement was broken? Don't 
you remember? You were on the porch as we 
came around the corner." 

For the first time since its utterance, he re- 
called her statement then, " We'll have to leave 
it as it was," and Webster's significant rejoinder. 
He despised his own stupidity. Had he magni- 
fied Webster's desire to keep that promise into 
guilty knowledge of the crime itself? And had 
not the mistake driven him into false and value- 



146 "NO CLUE!" 

less interpretations of his entire interview with 
Webster? 

" fle promised," Lucille pursued, " for the 
same reason I had in asking it to prevent dis- 
covery of the fact that father might have had 
a motive for wishing her dead! It was a mis- 
take, I see now, a terrible mistake ! " 

" Can you tell me why you didn't have the 
same thoughts about Berne?" He was sorry 
he had to make that inquiry. If he could, he 
would have spared her further distress. " Why 
wouldn't he have had the same motive, hatred 
of Mildred Brace, a thousand times stronger? " 

" I don't know," she said. " I simply never 
thought of it not once." 

Fine psychologist that he was, Eastings knew 
why that view had not occurred to her. Her 
love for Webster was an idealizing sentiment, 
putting him beyond even the possibility of 
wrong-doing. Her love for her father, unusual 
in its devotion as it was, recognized his weak- 
nesses nevertheless. 

And, while seeking to protect the two, she 
had told a story which, so far as bald facts 
went, incriminated the lover far more than the 
father. She had attributed to Sloane, in her 
uneasiness, the motive which would have been 
most natural to the discarded Webster. Even 
now, she could not suspect Berne ; her only fear 



MOTIVES REVEALED 147 

was that others, not understanding him as she 
did, might suspect him! Although she had 
broken with him, she still loved him. More 
than that: his illness and consequent helpless- 
ness increased her devotion for him, brought to 
the surface the maternal phase of it. 

" If she had to choose between the two," Hast- 
ings thought, " she'd save Webster every 
time!" 

" I know I tell you, Mr. Hastings, I know 
neither Berne nor father is at all responsible 
for this crime. I tell you," she repeated, rising 
to her feet, as if by mere physical height she 
hoped to impress her knowledge upon him, " I 
know they're innocent. Don't you know it? " 

She stood looking down at him, her whole 
body tense, arms held close against her sides, 
the knuckles of her fingers white as ivory. Her 
eyes now were dry, and brilliant. 

He evaded the flat statement to which she 
pressed him. ' 

" But your knowledge, Miss Sloane, and what 
we must prove," he said, also standing, " are 
two different things just now. The authorities 
will demand proofs." 

" I know. That's why I've told you these 
things." Somehow, her manner reproached him. 
" You said you had to have them in order to 
handle this this situation properly. Now that 



148 "NO CLUE!" 

you know them, I'm sure you'll feel safe in 
devoting all your time to proving Russell's 
guilt." She moved her head forward, to study 
him more closely. " You know he's guilty, don't 
you? " 

" I'm certain Mrs. Brace figured in her daugh- 
ter's murder," he said. " She was concerned in 
it somehow. If that's true, and if your father 
approached neither her nor her daughter yes- 
terday, it does seem highly possible that Rus- 
sell's guilty." 

He turned from her and stood at the window, 
his back to her a few long moments. When he 
faced her again, he looked old. 

" But the facts if we could only break down 
Russell's alibi ! " 

" Oh ! " she whispered, in new alarm. " I'd 
forgotten that ! " 

All the tenseness went out of her limbs. She 
sank into her chair, and sat there, looking up 
to him, her eyes frankly confessing a panic fear. 

" I think I'm sorry I told you," she said, des- 
perately. " I can't make you understand ! " 
Another consideration forced itself upon her. 
" You won't have to tell anybody anybody at 
all about this, will you now? " 

He was prepared for that. 

" I'll have to ask Judge Wilton why he acted 
on Mr. Webster's advice and what that advice 



MOTIVES REVEALED 149 

was, what they whispered to each other when 
you saw them." 

" Why, that's perfectly fair," she assented, 
relieved. " That will stop all the secrecy be- 
tween them and me. It's the very thing I want. 
If that's assured, everything else will work itself 
out." 

Her faith surprised him. He had not realized 
how unqualified it was. 

" Did you ask the judge about it? " he in- 
quired. 

"Yes; just before I came in here after 
Berne's collapse. I felt so helpless! But he 
tried to persuade me my imagination had de- 
ceived me; he said they had had no such scene. 
You know how gruff and hard Judge Wilton 
can be at times. I shouldn't choose him for a 
confidant." 

" No ; I reckon not. But we'll ask him now 
if you don't mind." 

Willis, the butler, answered the bell, and gave 
information : Judge Wilton had left Sloanehurst 
half an hour ago and had gone to the Randalls'. 
He had asked for Miss Sloane, but, learning 
that she was engaged, had left his regrets, say- 
ing he would come in tomorrow, after the ad- 
journment of court. 

" He's on the bench tomorrow at the county- 
seat," Lucille explained the message. "He al- 



150 "NO CLUE!" 

ways divides his time between us and the Ran- 
dalls when he comes down from Fairfax for his 
court terms. He told me this morning he'd 
come back to us later in the week." 

"On second thought," Hastings said, "that's 
better. I'll talk to him alone tomorrow about 
this thing, this inexplicable thing: a judge tak- 
ing it upon himself to deceive the sheriff even! 
But," he softened the sternness of his tone, " he 
must have a reason, a better one than I can 
think of now." He smiled. " And I'll report 
to you, when he's told me.' 

" I'm glad it's tomorrow," she said wearily. 
" I I'm tired out." 

On his way back to Washington, the old man 
reflected : " Now, she'll persuade Sloane to do 
the sensible thing talk." Then, to bolster that 
hope, he added a stern truth : " He's got to. 
He can't gag himself with a pretended illness 
forever ! " 

At the same time the girl he had left in the 
music room wept again, saying over and over 
to herself, in a despair of doubt : " Not that ! 
Not that! I couldn't tell him that. I told him 
enough. I know I did. He wouldn't have un- 
derstood!" 



XII 

HENDRICKS REPORTS 

IN his book-lined, " loosely furnished " apart- 
ment Sunday afternoon Hastings whittled 
prodigiously, staring frequently at the flap 
of the grey envelope with the intensity of a 
crystal-gazer. Once or twice he pronounced 
aloud possible meanings of the symbols im- 
printed on the scrap of paper. 

< edly de ? he worried. "That might 
stand for ' repeatedly demanded ' or t repeatedly 
denied ' or ' undoubtedly denoted ' or a hun- 
dred But that ' Pursuit ! ' is the core of 

the trouble. They put the pursuit on him, sure 
as you're knee-high to a hope of heaven ! " 

The belief grew in him that out of those 
pieces of words would come solution of his prob- 
lem. The idea was born of his remarkable in- 
stinct. Its positiveness partook of superstition 
almost. He could not shake it off. Once he 
chuckled, appreciating the apparent absurdity 
of trying to guess the criminal meaning, the 
criminal intent, back of that writing. But he 
kept to his conjecturing. 

He had many interruptions. Newspaper re- 

151 



152 "NO CLUE!" 

porters, instantly impressed by the dramatic 
possibilities, the inherent sensationalism, of 
the murder, flocked to him. Referred to him by 
the people at Sloanehurst, they asked for not 
only his narration of what had occurred but 
also for his opinion as to the probability of 
running down the guilty man. 

He would make no predictions, he told them, 
confining himself to a simple statement of facts. 
When one young sleuth suggested that both 
Sloane and Webster feared arrest on the charge 
of murder and had relied on his reputation to 
prevent prompt action against them by the 
sheriff, the old man laughed. He knew the 
futility of trying to prevent publication of inti- 
mations of that sort. 

But he took advantage of the opportunity to 
put a different interpretation on his employment 
by the Sloanes. 

" Seems to me," he contributed, " it's more 
logical to say that their calling in a detective 
goes a long way to show their innocence of all 
connection with the crime. They wouldn't pay 
out real money to have themselves hunted, if 
they were guilty, would they? " 

Afterwards, he was glad he had emphasized 
this point. In the light of subsequent events, 
it looked like actual foresight of Mrs. Brace's 
tactics. 



HENDRICKS EEPORTS 153 

Soon after five Hendricks came in, to report. 
He was a young man, stockily built, with eyes 
that were always on the verge of laughter and 
lips that sloped inward as if biting down on 
the threatened mirth. The shape of his lips was 
symbolical of his habit of discourse; he was of 
few words. 

" Webster," he said, standing across the table 
from his employer and shooting out his words 
like a memorized speech, "been overplaying his 
hand financially. That's the rumour; nothing 
tangible yet. Gone into real estate and building 
projects; associated with a crowd that has the 
name of operating on a shoestring. Nobody'd be 
surprised if they all blew up." 

" As a real-estate man, I take it," Hastings 
commented, slowly shaving off thin slivers of 
chips from his piece of pine, " he's a brilliant 
young lawyer. That's it? " 

" Yes, sir," Hendricks agreed, the slope of 
his lips accentuated. 

"Keep after that, tomorrow. What about 
Mrs. Brace?" 

" Destitute, practically ; in debt ; threatened 
with eviction; no resources." 

"So money, lack of it, is bothering her as 
well as Webster! How much is she in 
debt? " 

" Enough to be denied all credit by the stores ; 



154 "NO CLUE!" 

between five and seven hundred, I should say. 
That's about the top mark for that class of 
trade." 

" All right, Hendricks ; thanks," the old man 
commended warmly. " That's great work, for 
Sunday. Now, Russell's room?" 

" Yes, sir ; I went over it." 

" Find any steel on the floor? " 

Hendricks took from his pocket a little paper 
parcel about the size of a man's thumb. 

" Not sure, sir. Here's what I got." 

He unfolded the paper and put it down on the 
table, displaying a small mass of what looked 
like dust and lint. 

" Wonderful what a magnet will pick up, ain't 
it?" mused his employer: "I got the same sort 
of stuff at Sloanehurst this morning. I'll go 
over this, look for the steel particles, right 
away." 

" Anything else, sir special? " 

The assistant was already half-way to the 
door. He knew that a floor an inch deep in 
chips from his employer's whittling indicated 
laborious mental gropings by the old man. It 
was no time for superfluous words. 

" After dinner," Hastings instructed, " relieve 
Gore at the Walman. Thanks." 

As Hendricks went out, there was another 
telephone call, this time from Crown, to make 



HENDRICKS REPORTS 155 

amends for coolness he had shown Hastings at 
Sloanehurst. 

" I was wrong, and you were right," he con- 
ceded, handsomely ; " I mean about that Brace 
woman. Better keep your man on her 
trail." 

" What's up? " Hastings asked amicably. 

" That's what I want to know ! I've seen her 
again. I couldn't get anything more from her 
except threats. She's going on the warpath. 
She told me: ' Tomorrow I'll look into things for 
myself. I'll not sit here idle and leave every- 
thing to a sheriff who wants campaign contribu- 
tions and a detective who's paid to hush things 
up!' You can see her saying that, can't you? 
Wow!" 

"That all?" 

"That's all, right now. But I've got a sus- 
picion she knows more than we think. When 
she makes up her mind to talk, she'll say some- 
thing! Mr. Hastings," Crown added, as if he 
imparted a tremendous fact, "that woman's 
smart! I tell you, she's got brains, a head full 
of 'em!" 

"So I judged," the detective agreed, drily. 
" By the way, have you seen Russell again? " 

"Yes. There's another thing. I don't see 
where you get that stuff about his weak alibi. 
It's copper-riveted ! " 



156 "NO CLUE!" 

" He says so, you mean." 

" Yes ; and the way he says it. But I followed 
your advice. I've advertised, through the police 
here and up and down the Atlantic coast, for 
any automobile party or parties who went along 
that Sloanehurst road last night between ten- 
thirty and eleven-thirty." 

"Fine!" Hastings congratulated. "But get 
me straight on that: I don't say any of them 
saw him; I say there's a chance that he was 
seen." 

The old man went back, not to examination 
of Hendricks' parcel, but to further considera- 
tion of the possible contents of the letter that 
had been in the grey envelope. Russell, he re- 
flected, had been present when Mildred Brace 
mailed it, and, what was more important, when 
Mildred started out of the apartment with 
it. 

He made sudden decision: he would question 
Russell again. Carefully placing Hendricks' 
package of dust and lint in a drawer of the 
table, he set out for the Eleventh street boarding 
house. 

It was, however, not Russell who figured most 
prominently in the accounts of the murder pub- 
lished by the Monday morning newspapers. The 
reporters, resenting the reticence they had en- 
countered at Sloanehurst, and making much of 



HENDEICKS EEPORTS 157 

Mrs. Brace's threats, put in the forefront of 
their stories an appealing picture of a bereaved 
mother's one-sided fight for justice against the 
baffling combination of the Sloanehurst secretive- 
ness and indifference and the mysterious cir- 
cumstances of the daughter's death. Not one 
of them questioned the validity of Russell's 
alibi. 

" With the innocence of the dead girl's fiance^ 
established," said one account, "Sheriff Crown 
last night made no secret of his chagrin that 
Berne Webster had collapsed at the very mo- 
ment when the sheriff was on the point of put- 
ting him through a rigid cross-examination. 
The young lawyer's retirement from the scene, 
coupled with the Sloane family's retaining the 
celebrated detective, Jefferson Hastings, as a 
buffer against any questioning of the Sloane- 
hurst people, has given Society, here and in Vir- 
ginia, a topic for discussion of more than ordi- 
nary interest." 

Another paragraph that caught Hastings' at- 
tention, as he read between mouthfuls of his 
breakfast, was this: 

" Mrs. Brace, discussing the tragedy with a 
reporter last night, showed a surprising knowl- 
edge of all its incidents. Although she had not 
left her apartment in the Walman all day, she 
had been questioned by both Sheriff Crown and 



158 "NO CLUE!" 

Mr. Hastings, not to mention the unusually 
large number of newspaper writers who besieged 
her for interviews. 

" And it seemed that, in addition to answering 
the queries put to her by the investigators, she 
had accomplished a vast amount of keen inquiry 
on her own account. When talking to her, it 
is impossible for one to escape the impression 
that this extraordinarily intelligent woman be- 
lieves she can prove the guilt of the man who 
struck down her daughter." 

" Just what I was afraid of," thought the 
detective. " Nearly every paper siding with 
her!" 

His face brightened. 

" All the better," he consoled himself. " More 
chance of her overreaching herself as long as 
she don't know what I suspect. I'll get the 
meaning of that grey letter yet ! " 

But he was worried. Berne Webster's col- 
lapse, he knew, was too convenient for Webster 
it looked like pretence. Ninety-nine out of 
every hundred newspaper readers would con- 
sider his illness a fake, the obvious trick to 
escape the work of explaining what seemed to 
be inexplicable circumstances, 

To Hastings the situation was particularly 
annoying because he had brought it about; his 
own questioning had turned out to be the 



HENDRICKS KEPORTS 159 

straw that broke the suspected man's endur- 
ance. 

" Always blundering ! " he upbraided himself. 
" Trying to be so all-shot smart, I overplayed 
my hand." 

He got Dr. Garnet on the wire. 

"Doctor," he said, in a tone that implored, 
" I'm obliged to see Webster today." 

" Sorry, Mr. Hastings," came the instant re- 
fusal ; " but it can't be done." 

" For one question," qualified Hastings ; " less 
than a minute's talk one word, ' yes ' or ' no '? 
It's almost a matter of life and death." 

" If that man's excited about anything," Gar- 
net retorted, "it will be entirely a matter of 
death. Frankly, I couldn't see my way clear 
to letting you question him if his escaping ar- 
rest depended on it. I called in Dr. Welles last 
night; and I'm giving you his opinion as well 
as my own." 

"When can I see him, then?" 

" I can't answer that. It may be a week ; it 
may be a month. All I can tell you today is 
that you can't question him now." 

With that information, Hastings decided to 
interview Judge Wilton. 

"He's the next best," he thought. "That 
whispering across the woman's body it's got 
to be explained, and explained right ! " 



160 -"NO CLUE!" 

As a matter of fact, he had refrained from 
this inquiry the day before, so that his mind 
might not be clouded by anger. His deception 
by the judge had greatly provoked him. 



XIII 

MBS. BRACE BEGINS 

COURT had recessed for lunch when Hast- 
ings, going down a second-story corridor 
of the Alexandria county courthouse, en- 
tered Judge Wilton's anteroom. His hand was 
raised to knock on the door of the inner office 
when he heard the murmur of voices on the 
other side. He took off his hat and sat down, 
welcoming the breeze that swept through the 
room, a refreshing contrast to the forenoon's 
heat and smother downstairs. 

He reached for his knife and piece of pine, 
checked the motion and glanced swiftly toward 
the closed door. A high note of a woman's voice 
touched his memory, for a moment confusing 
him. But it was for a moment only. While 
the sound was still in his ears, he remembered 
where he had heard it before from Mrs. Brace 
when, toward the close of his interview with 
her, she had shrilly denounced Berne Webster. 

Mrs. Brace, her daughter's funeral barely 
three hours old, had started to make her threats 
good. 

161 



162 "NO CLUE!" 

While he was considering that, the door of 
the private office swung inward, Judge Wilton's 
hand on the knob. It opened on the middle of 
a sentence spoken by Mrs. Brace: 

" tell you, you're a fool if you think you 
can put me off with that ! " 

Her gleaming eyes were so furtive and so 
quick that they traversed the whole of Wilton's 
countenance many times, a fiery probe of each 
separate feature. The inflections of her voice 
invested her words with ugliness; but she did 
not shriek. 

" You bully everybody else, but not me ! They 
don't call you i Hard Tom Wilton ' for nothing, 
do they? I know you! I know you, I tell you! 
I was down there in the courtroom when you 
sentenced that man! You had cruelty in your 
mind, cruelty on your face. Ugh ! And you're 
cruel to me and taking an ungodly pleasure 
in it! Well, let me tell you, I won't be broken 
by it. I want fair dealing, and I'll have it ! " 

At that moment, facing full toward Hastings, 
she caught sight of him. But his presence 
seemed a matter of no importance to her; it 
did not break the stream of her fierce invective. 
She did not even pause. 

He saw at once that her anger of yesterday 
was as nothing to the storming rage which 
shook her now. Every line of her face revealed 



MRS. BRACE BEGINS 163 

malignity. The eyebrows were drawn higher on 
her forehead, nearer to the wave of white hair 
that showed under her black hat. The nostrils 
dilated and contracted with indescribable rapid- 
ity. The lips, thickened and rolling back at 
intervals from her teeth, revealed more dis- 
tinctly that animal, exaggerated wetness which 
had so repelled him. 

" You were out there on that lawn ! " she 
pursued, her glance flashing back to the judge. 
" You were out there when she was killed! If 
you try to tell me you " 

"Stop it! Stop it!" Wilton commanded, 
and, as he did so, turned his head to an angle 
that put Hastings within his field of vision. 

The judge, with one hand on the doorknob, 
had been pressing with the other against the 
woman's shoulders, trying to thrust her out of 
the room a move which she resisted by a hang- 
ing-back posture that threw her weight on his 
arm. He put more strength now into his effort 
and succeeded in forcing her clear of the thresh- 
old. His eyes were blazing under the shadow 
of. his heavy, overhanging brows ; but there was 
about him no suggestion of a loss of self-control. 

" I'm glad to see you ! " he told Hastings, 
speaking over Mrs. Brace's head, and smiling 
a deprecatory recognition of the hopelessness 
of contending with an infuriated woman. 



164 "NO CLUE!" 

She addressed them both. 

" Smile all you please, now ! " she threatened. 
" But the accounts aren't balanced yet ! Wait 
for what I choose to tell what I intend to do ! " 

Suddenly she got herself in hand. It was as 
unexpected and thorough a transformation as 
the one Hastings had seen twenty-four hours 
before during her declaration of Webster's guilt. 
She had the same appearance now as then, the 
same tautness of body, the same flat, constrained 
tone. 

She turned to Wilton: 

" I ask you again, will you help me as I asked 
you? Are you going to deny me fair play? " 

He looked at her in amazament, scowling. 

" What fair play? " he exclaimed, and, with- 
out waiting for her reply, said to Hastings: 
" She insists that I know young Webster killed 
her daughter, that I can produce the evidence to 
prove it. Can you disabuse her mind? " 

She surprised them by going, slowly and with 
apparent composure, toward the corridor door. 
There she paused, looking at first one and then 
the other with an evil smile so openly contempt- 
uous that it affected them strongly. There was 
something in it that made it flagrantly insulting. 
Hastings turned away from her. Judge Wilton 
gave her look for look, but his already flushed 
face coloured more darkly. 



MRS. BRACE BEGINS 165 

" Very well, Judge Wilton ! " she gave him 
insolent good-bye, in which there was also un- 
mistakable threat. " You'll do the right thing 
sooner or later and as I tell you. You're get 
this straight you're not through with me yet ! " 

She laughed, one low note, and, impossible 
as it seemed, proclaimed with the harsh sound 
an absolute confidence in what she said. 

" Nor you, Mr. Hastings ! " she continued, 
taking her time with her words, and waiting 
until the detective faced her again, before she 
concluded : " You'll sing a different tune when 
you find I've got this affair in my hands tight! ' 

Still smiling her contempt, as if she enjoyed 
a feeling of superiority, she left the room. When 
her footsteps died down the corridor, the two 
men drew long breaths of relief. 

Wilton broke the ensuing silence. 

" Is she sane? " 

" Yes," Hastings said, " so far as sanity can 
be said to exist in a mind consecrated to evil." 

The judge was surprised by the solemnity of 
the other's manner. " Why do you say that? " 
he asked. " Do you know that much about 
her? " 

" Who wouldn't? " Hastings retorted. " It's 
written all over her." 

Wilton led the way into his private office and 
closed the door. 



166 "NO CLUE!" 

" I'm glad it happened at just this time," he 
said, "when everybody's out of the building." 
He struck the desk with his fist. " By God! " 
he ground out through gritted teeth. " How I 
hate these wild, unbridled women ! " 

" Yes," agreed Hastings, taking the chair Wil- 
ton rolled forward for him. " She worries me. 
Wonder if she's going to Sloanehurst." 

" That would be the logical sequel to this 
visit," Wilton said. " But pardon my show of 
temper. You came to see me? " 

" Yes ; and, like her, for inf ormation. But," 
the detective said, smiling, " not for rough-house 
purposes." 

The judge had not entirely regained his equa- 
nimity; his face still wore a heightened colour; 
his whole bearing was that of a man mentally 
reviewing the results of an unpleasant incident. 
Instead of replying promptly to Hastings, he 
sat looking out of the window, obviously 
troubled. 

" Her game is blackmail," he declared at last. 

" On whom? " the detective queried. 

"Arthur Sloane, of course. She calculates 
that he'll play to have her cease annoying his 
daughter's fiance'. And she'll impress Arthur, 
if Jarvis ever lets her get to him. Somehow, 
she strangely compels credence." 

" Not for me," Hastings objected, and did not 



MRS. BRACE BEGINS 167 

point out that Wilton's words might be taken 
as an admission of Webster's guilt. 

The judge himself might have seen that. 

" I mean/' he qualified, " she seems too smart 
a woman to put herself in a position where 
ridicule will be sure to overtake her. And yet, 
that's what she's doing isn't she? " 

The detective was whittling, dropping the 
chips into the waste-basket. He spoke with a 
deliberateness unusual even in him, framing 
each sentence in his mind before giving it utter- 
ance. 

" I reckon, judge, you and I have had some 
four or five talks that is, not counting Satur- 
day evening and yesterday at Sloanehurst. 
That's about the extent of our acquaintance. 
That right? " 

"Why, yes," Wilton said, surprised by the 
change of topic. 

" I mention it," Hastings explained, " to show 
how I've felt toward you you interested me. 
Excuse me if I speak plainly you'll see why 
later on but you struck me as worth studying, 
deep. And I thought you must have sized me 
up, catalogued me one way or the other. You're 
like me: waste no time with men who bore you. 
I felt certain, if you'd been asked, you'd have 
checked me off as reliable. Would you? " 

" Unquestionably." 



168 "NO CLUE!" 

"And, if I was reliable then, I'm reliable 
now. That's a fair assumption, ain't it? " 

"Certainly." The judge laughed shortly, a 
little embarrassed. 

" That brings me to my point. You'll believe 
me when I tell you my only interest in this 
murder is to find the murderer, and, while I'm 
doing it, to save the Sloanes as much as possible 
from annoyance. You'll believe me, also, when 
I say I've got to have all the facts if I'm to 
work surely and fast. You recognize the force 
of that, don't you? " 

"Why, yes, Hastings." Wilton spoke impa- 
tiently this time. 

" Fine ! " The old man shot him a genial 
glance over the steel-rimmed spectacles. " That's 
the introduction. Here's the real thing: I've an 
idea you could tell me more about what hap- 
pened on the lawn Saturday night." 

After his involuntary, immediate start of sur- 
prise, Wilton tilted his head, slowly blowing the 
cigar smoke from his pursed lips. He had a fine 
air of reflection, careful thought. 

" I can elaborate what I've already told you," 
he said, finally, "if that's what you mean go 
into greater detail." 

He watched closely the edge of the detective's 
face unhidden by his bending over the wood he 
was cutting. 



MRS. BRACE BEGINS 169 

" I don't think elaboration could do much 
good," Hastings objected. " I referred to new 
stuff some fact or facts you might have omitted, 
unconsciously." 

" Unconsciously? " Wilton echoed the word, 
as a man does when his mind is overtaxed. 

Hastings took it up. 

" Or consciously, even," he said quickly, meet- 
ing the other's eyes. 

The judge moved sharply, bracing himself 
against the back of the chair. 

" What do you mean by that? " 

" Skilled in the law yourself, thoroughly famil- 
iar, with the rules of evidence, it's more than 
possible that you might have reviewed matters 
and decided that there were things which, if 
they were known, would do harm instead of good 
obscure the truth, perhaps ; or hinder the hunt 
for the guilty man instead of helping it on. 
That's clear enough, isn't it? You might have 
thought that? " 

The look of sullen resentment in the judge's 
face was unmistakable. 

" Oh, say what you mean ! " he retorted 
warmly. " What you're insinuating is that I've 
lied!" 

" It don't have to be called that." 

" Well, then, that I, a judge, sworn to up- 
hold the law and punish crime, have elected to 



170 "NO CLUE!" 

thwart the law and to cheat its officials of the 
facts they should have. Is that what you 
mean? " 

" I'll be honest with you," Hastings admitted, 
unmoved by the other's grand manner. " I've 
wondered about that whether you thought 
a judge had a right to do a thing of that 
sort." 

Wilton's hand, clenched on the edge of the 
desk, shook perceptibly. 

"Did you think that, judge?" the detective 
persisted. 

The judge hesitated. 

" It's a point I've never gone into," he said 
finally, with intentional sarcasm. 

Hastings snapped his knife-blade shut and 
thrust the piece of wood into his pocket. 

" Let's get away from this beating about the 
bush," he suggested, voice on a sterner note. 
" I don't want to irritate you unnecessarily, 
judge. I came here for information stuff I'm 
more than anxious to get. And I go back to 
that now : won't you tell me anything more about 
the discovery of the woman's body by the two 
of you you and Webster? " 

" No ; I won't ! I've covered the whole thing 
several times." 

" Is there anything that you haven't told 
anything you've decided to suppress? " 



MBS. BRACE BEGINS 171 

Wilton got up from his chair and struck the 
desk with his fist. 

" See here, Hastings ! You're getting beside 
yourself. Representing Miss Sloane doesn't 
warrant your insulting her friends. Suppose 
we consider this interview at an end. Some 
other time, perhaps " 

Hastings also had risen. 

" Just a minute, judge ! " he interrupted, all 
at once assuming the authoritative air that had 
so amazed Wilton the night of the murder. 
" You're suppressing something and I know 
it!" 

"That's a lie!" Wilton retorted, the flush 
deepening to crimson on his face. 

" It ain't a lie," Hastings contradicted, hold- 
ing his self-control. "And you watch your- 
self! Don't you call me a liar again not 
as long as you live! You can't afford the 
insult." 

"Then, don't provoke it. Don't " 

"What did Webster whisper to you, across 
that corpse? " Hastings demanded, going nearer 
to Wilton. 

"What's this?" Wilton's tone was one of 
consternation; the words might have been 
spoken by a man stumbling on an unsuspected 
horror in a dark room. 

They stared at each other for several drag- 



172 "NO CLUE!" 

ging seconds. The detective waved a hand to- 
ward the judge's chair. 

" Sit down," he said, resuming his own seat. 

There followed another pause, longer than the 
first. The judge's breathing was laboured, audi- 
ble. He lowered his eyes and passed his hand 
across their thick lids. When he looked up 
again, Hastings commanded him with unwaver- 
ing, expectant gaze. 

" I've made a mistake," Wilton began huskily, 
and stopped. 

" Yes? " Hastings said, unbending. " How? " 

" I see it now. It was a matter of no im- 
portance, in itself. I've exaggerated it, by my 
silence, into disproportionate significance." 
His tone changed to curiosity. " Who told you 
about the whispering? " 

The detective was implacable, emphasizing his 
dominance. 

"First, what was it?" When Wilton still 
hesitated, he repeated : " What did Webster say 
when he put his hand over your mouth to pre- 
vent your outcry?" 

The judge threw up his head, as if in sudden 
resolve to be frank. He spoke more readily, with 
a clumsy semblance of amiability. 

"He said, < Don't do that! You'll frighten 
Lucille ! ' I tried to nod my head, agreeing. 
But he misunderstood the movement, I think. 



MKS. BRACE BEGINS 173 

He thought I meant to shout anyway; he tight- 
ened his grip. ' Keep quiet ! Will you keep 
quiet? ' he repeated two or three times. When 
I made my meaning clear, he took his hand 
away. He explained later what had occurred 
to him the moment Arthur's light flashed on. 
He said it came to him before he clearly realized 
who I was. It 

" I swear, Hastings, I hate to tell you this. 
It suggests unjust suspicions. Of what value 
are the wild ideas of a nervous man, all to 
pieces anyway, when he stumbles on a dead 
woman in the middle of the night? " 

" They were valuable enough," Hastings 
flicked him, "for you to cover them up for 
some reason. What were they? " 

Wilton was puzzled by the detective's tone, 
its abstruse insinuation. But he answered the 
question. 

"He said his first idea, the one that made 
him think of Lucille, was that Arthur might 
have had something to do with the murder." 

" Why? Why did he think Sloane had killed 
Mildred Brace?" 

" Because she had been the cause of Lucille's 
breaking her engagement with Berne and Ar- 
thur knew that. Arthur had been in a rage " 

" All right ! " Hastings checked him suddenly, 
and, getting to his feet, fell to pacing the room, 



174 "NO CLUE!" 

his eyes, always on Wilton. " I'm acquainted 
with that part of it." 

He paid no attention to Wilton's evident sur- 
prise at that statement. He had a surprise of 
his own to deal with : the unexpected similarity 
of the judge's story with Lucille Sloane's theo- 
rizing as to what Webster had whispered across 
the body in the moment of its discovery. The 
two statements were identical a coincidence 
that defied credulity. 

He caught himself doubting Lucille. Had she 
been theorizing, after all? Or had she relayed 
to him words that Wilton had put into her 
mouth? Then, remembering her grief, her des- 
perate appeals to him for aid, he dismissed the 
suspicion. 

"I'd stake my life on her honesty," he de- 
cided. " Her intuition gave her the correct solu- 
tion if Wilton's not lying now ! " 

He put the obvious question : " Judge, am I 
the first one to hear this from you?" and re- 
ceived the obvious answer : " You are. I didn't 
volunteer it to you, did I? " 

"All right. Now, did you believe Webster? 
Wait a minute ! Did you believe his fear wasn't 
for himself when he gagged you that way? " 

"Yes; I did," replied Wilton, in a tone that 
lacked sincerity. , 

" Do you believe it now? " 



MKS. BRACE BEGINS 175 

" If I didn't, do you think I'd have tried for 
a moment to conceal what he said to me? " 

" Why did you conceal it? " 

" Because Arthur Sloane was my friend, and 
his daughter's happiness would have been 
ruined if I'd thrown further suspicion on him. 
Besides, what I did conceal could have been of 
no value to any detective or sheriff on earth. 
It meant nothing, so long as I knew the boy's 
sincerity and his innocence as well as Ar- 
thur's." 

" But," Hastings persisted, " why all this con- 
cern for Webster, after his engagement had been 
broken? " 

"How's that?" Wilton countered. "Oh, I 
see! The break wasn't permanent. Arthur and 
I had decided on that. We knew they'd get 
together again." 

Hastings halted in front of the judge's chair. 

" Have you kept back anything else? " he de- 
manded. 

" Nothing," Wilton said, with a return of his 
former sullenness. "And," he forced himself 
to the avowal, " I'm sorry I kept that back. It's 
nothing." 

Hastings' manner changed on the instant. He 
was once more cordial. 

" All right, judge ! " he said heartily, consult- 
ing his ponderous watch. " This is all between 



176 "NO CLUE!" 

us. I take it, you wouldn't want it known by 
the sheriff, even now? " Wilton shook his head 
in quick negation. "All right! He needn't 
if things go well. And the person I got it from 
won't spread it around. That satisfactory? " 

The judge's smile, in spite of his best effort, 
was devoid of friendliness. The dark flush that 
persisted in his countenance told how hardly 
he kept down his anger. 

Hastings put on his hat and ambled toward 
the door. 

" By the way," he proclaimed an afterthought, 
" I've got to ask one more favour, judge. If Mrs. 
Brace troubles you again, will you let me know 
about it, at the earliest possible moment? " 

He went out, chuckling. 

But the judge was as mystified as he was re- 
sentful. He had detected in Hastings' manner, 
he thought, the same self-satisfaction, the same 
quiet elation, which he and Berne had observed 
at the close of the music-room interview. Going 
to the window, he addressed the summer sky : 

" Who the devil does the old fool suspect 
Arthur or Berne? " 



XIV 

ME. CROWN FORMS AN ALLIANCE 

**"W"F you've as much as five hundred dollars 
at your disposal pin-money savings, per- 
haps anything you can check on with- 
out the knowledge of others, you can do it," 
Hastings urged, ending a long argument. 

" I ! Take it to her myself? " Lucille still pro- 
tested, although she could not refute his reason- 
ings. 

" It's the only way that would be effective 
and it wouldn't be so difficult. I had counted 
on your courage your unusual courage." 

"But what will it accomplish? If I could 
only see that, clearly!" 

She was beginning to yield to his insistence. 

They were in the rose garden, in the shade 
of a little arbor from whose roof the great red 
flowers drooped almost to the girl's hair. He 
was acutely aware of the pathetic contrast be- 
tween her white, ravaged face and the surround- 
ing scene, the fragrance, the roses of every colour 
swaying to the slow breeze of late afternoon, the 
long, cool shadows. He found it hard to force 
177 



178 "NO CLUE!" 

her to the plan, and would have abandoned it 
but for the possibilities it presented to his mind. 

" I've already touched on that," he applied 
himself to her doubts. " I want you to trust 
me there, to accept my solemn assurance that, if 
Mrs. Brace accepts this money from you on 
our terms, it will hasten my capture of the mur- 
derer. I'll say more than that: you are my 
only possible help in the matter. Won't you 
believe me? " 

She sat quite still, a long time, looking stead- 
ily at him with unseeing eyes. 

" I shall have to go to that dreadful woman's 
apartment, be alone with her, make a secret 
bargain," she enumerated the various parts of 
her task, wonder and repugnance mingling in 
her voice. " That horrible woman ! You say, 
yourself, Mr. Hastings, she's horrible." 

" Still," he repeated, " you can do it." 

A little while ago she had cried out, both 
hands clenched on the arm of the rustic bench, 
her eyes opening wide in the startled look he 
had come to know : " If I could do something, 
anything, for Berne! Dr. Welles said only an 
hour ago he had no more than an even chance 
for his life. Half the time he can't speak! And 
I'm responsible. I am! I know it. I try to 
think I'm not. But I am!" 

He recurred to that. 



MR. CROWN FORMS AN ALLIANCE 179 

" Dr. Welles said the ending of Mr. Webster's 
suspense would be the best medicine for him. 
And I think Webster would see that nobody 
but you could do this in the very nature of 
things. The absolute secrecy required, the fact 
that you buy her silence, pay her to cease her 
accusations against Berne don't you see? He'd 
want you to do it." 

That finished her resistance. She made him 
repeat all his directions, precautions for 
secrecy. 

" I wish I could tell you how important it 
is," he said. " And keep this in mind always : 
I rely on your paying her the money without 
even a suspicion of it getting abroad. If acci- 
dents happen and you're seen entering the Wai- 
man, what more natural than that you want 
to ask this woman the meaning of her vague 
threats against against Sloanehurst? But of 
money, your real object, not a word! Nobody's 
to have a hint of it." 

" Oh, yes ; I see the necessity of that." But 
she was distressed. " Suppose she refuses? " 

Her altered frame of mind, an eagerness now 
to succeed with the plan she had at first re- 
fused, brought him again his thought of yester- 
day : " If she were put to it if she could save 
only one and had to choose between father and 
fiance', her choice would be for the fiance'." 



180 " NO CLUE ! " 

He answered her question. " She won't re- 
fuse," he declared, with a confidence she could 
not doubt. " If I thought she would, I'd almost 
be willing to say we'd never find the man who 
killed her daughter." 

" When I think of Russell's alibi " 

" Have we mentioned Russell? " he protested, 
laughing away her fears. " Anyway, his old 
alibi's no good if that's what's troubling you. 
Wait and see ! " 

He was in high good humour. 

In that same hour the woman for whom he 
had planned this trap was busy with a scheme 
of her own. Her object was to form an alliance 
with Sheriff Crown. That gentleman, to use his 
expressive phrase, had been "putting her over 
the jumps " for the past forty minutes, bringing 
to the work of cross-questioning h*er all the in- 
telligence, craftiness and logic at his command. 
The net result of his fusillade of interrogatories, 
however, was exceedingly meagre. 

As he sat, caressing his chin and thrusting 
forward his bristly moustache, Mrs. Brace per- 
ceived in his eyes a confession of failure. Al- 
though he was far from suspecting it, he pre- 
sented to her keen scrutiny an amusing figure. 
She observed that his shoulders drooped, and 
that, as he slowly produced a handkerchief and 



ME. CKOWN FOKMS AN ALLIANCE 181 

mopped his forehead, his movements were elo- 
quent of gloom. 

In fact, Mr. Crown felt himself at a loss. He 
had come to the end of his resourcefulness in 
the art of probing for facts. He was about to 
take his departure, with the secret realization 
that he had learned nothing new unless an in- 
creased admiration of Mrs. Brace's sharpness of 
wit might be catalogued as knowledge. 

She put his thought into language. 

" You see, Mr. Crown, you're wasting your 
time shouting at me, bullying me, accusing me 
of protecting the murderer of my own daugh- 
ter." 

There was a new note in her voice, a hint, 
ever so slight, of a willingness to be friendly. 
He was not insensible to it. Hearing it, he put 
himself on guard, wondering what it portended. 

" I didn't say that," he contradicted, far from 
graciousness. " I said you knew a whole lot 
more about the murder than you'd tell tell me 
anyway." 

" But why should I want to conceal anything 
that might bring the man to justice? " 

" Blessed if I know ! " he conceded, not with- 
out signs of irritation. 

So far as he could see, not a feature of her 
face changed. The lifted eyebrows were still 
high upon her forehead, interrogative and 



182 "NO CLUE!" 

mocking; the restless, gleaming eyes still drilled 
into various parts of his person and attire; the 
thin lips continued their moving pictures of 
contempt. And yet, he saw, too, that she pre- 
sented to him now another countenance. 

The change was no more than a shadow; and 
the shadow was so light that he could not be 
sure of its meaning. He thought it was friend- 
liness, but that opinion was dulled by recurrence 
of his admiration of her " smartness." He 
feared some imposition. 

" You've adopted Mr. Hastings' absurd the- 
ory," she said, as if she wondered. " You've 
subscribed to it without question." 

"What theory?" 

" That I know who the guilty man is." 

Well? " He was still on guard. 

" It surprises me that's all a man of your 
intellect, your originality." 

She sighed, marvelling at this addition to life's 
conundrums. 

"Why?" he asked, bluntly. 

" I should never have thought you'd put your- 
self in that position before the public. I mean, 
letting him lead you around by the nose figura- 
tively." 

Mr. Crown started forward in his chair, eyes 
popped. He was indignant and surprised. 

" Is that what they're saying? " he demanded. 



ME. CROWN FORMS AN ALLIANCE 183 

" Naturally," she said, and with the one word 
laid it down as an impossibility that " they " 
could have said anything else. " That's what 
the reporters tell me." 

"Well, I'll be dog-goned!" The knuckle- 
like chin dropped. "They're saying that, are 
they? " 

Disturbed as he was, he noticed that she re- 
garded him with apparently genuine interest 
that, perhaps, she added to her interest a re- 
gret that he had displayed no originality in the 
investigation, a man of his intellect! 

" They couldn't understand why you were 
playing Hastings' game," she proceeded, " play- 
ing it to his smallest instructions." 

" Hastings' game! What the thunder are they 
talking about? What do they mean, his game? " 

" His desire to keep suspicion away from the 
Sloanes and Mr. Webster. That's what they 
hired him for isn't it?" 

" I guess it is by gravy ! " Mr. Crown's long- 
drawn sigh was distinctly tremulous. 

" That old man pockets his fee when he 
throws Gene Russell into jail. Why, then, isn't 
it his game to convince you of Gene's guilt? 
Why isn't it his game to persuade you of my 
secret knowledge of Gene's guilt? Why " 

" So, that's " 

"Let me say what I started," she in turn 



184 "NO CLUE!" 

interrupted him. "As one of the reporters 
pointed out, why isn't it his game to try to make 
a fool of you? " 

The smile with which she recommended that 
rumour to his attention incensed him further. 
It patronized him. It said, as openly as if she 
had spoken the words : " I'm really very sorry 
for you." 

He dropped his hands to his widespread 
knees, slid forward to the edge of his chair, 
thrust his face closer to hers, peered into her 
hard face for her meaning. 

" Making a fool of me, is he? " he said in the 
brutal key of un repressed rage. 

A quick motion of her lifted brows, a curve 
of her lower lip indubitably, a new significance 
of expression stopped his outburst. 

"By George!" he said, taken aback. "By 
George! " he repeated, this time in a coarse ex- 
ultation. He thrust himself still closer to her, 
certain now of her meaning. 

" What do you know? " He lowered his voice 
and asked again : " Mrs. Brace, what do you 
know? " 

She moved back, farther from him. She was 
not to be rushed into anything. She made him 
appreciate the difficulty of "getting next" to 
her. He no longer felt fear of her imposing on 
him she had just exposed, for his benefit, how 



MR. CROWN FORMS AN ALLIANCE 185 

Hastings had played on his credulity! He felt 
grateful to her for that. His only anxiety now 
was that she might change her mind, might 
refuse him the assistance which that new and 
subtle expression had promised a moment ago. 

" If I thought you'd use " she began, 

broke off, and looked past his shoulder at the 
opposite wall, the pupils of her eyes sharp points 
of light, lips drawn to a line almost invisible. 

Her evident prudence fired his eagerness. 

" If I'd do what? " he asked. " If you thought 
I'd what? " 

" Let me think," she requested. 

He changed his posture, with a great show 
of watching the sunset sky, and stole little 
glances at her smooth, untroubled face. He be- 
lieved now that she could put him on the trail 
of the murderer. He confessed to himself, un- 
reservedly, that Hastings had tricked him, held 
him up to ridicule to the ridicule of a nation, 
for this crime held the interest of the entire 
country. But here was his chance for revenge! 
With this " smart " woman's help, he would out- 
wit Hastings! 

" If you'd use my ideas confidentially," she 
said at last, eying him as if she speculated on 
his honesty ; " if I were sure that " 

" Why can't you be sure of it? " he broke in. 
" My job is to catch the man who killed your 



186 "NO CLUE!" 

daughter. I've got two jobs. The other is to 
show up old Hastings! Why wouldn't I do as 
you ask exactly as you ask? " 

She tantalized him. 

" And remember that what I say is ideas only, 
not knowledge? " 

"Sure! Certainly, Mrs. Brace." 

"And, even when you arrest the right man, 
say nothing of what you owe me for my sug- 
gestions? You're the kind of man to want to 
do that sort of thing give me credit for help- 
ing you." 

Even that pleased him. 

" If you specify silence, I give you my word 
on it," he said, with a fragment of the pompous 
manner he had brought into the apartment more 
than an hour ago. 

"You'll take my ideas, my theory, work on 
it and never bring me into it in any way? If 
you make that promise, I'll tell you what I 
think, what I'm certain is the answer to this 
puzzle." 

" Win or lose, right or wrong idea, you have 
my oath on it." 

" Very well ! " She said that with the air of 
one embarking on a tremendous venture and 
scorning all its possibilities of harm. " I shall 
trust you fully. First, let me sketch all the 
known facts, everything connected with the 



MR. CKOWN FORMS AN ALLIANCE 187 

tragedy, and everything I know concerning the 
conduct of the affected individuals since." 

He was leaning far toward her once more, a 
child-like impatience stamped on his face. As 
she proceeded, his admiration grew. 

For this, there was ample ground. The news- 
paper paragraph Hastings had read that morn- 
ing commenting on her mastery of all the de- 
tails of the crime had scarcely done her justice. 
Before she concluded, Crown had heard from 
her lips little incidents that had gone over his 
head. She put new and accurate meaning into 
facts time and time again, speaking with the 
particularity and vividness of an eye-witness. 

" Now," she said, having reconstructed the 
crime and described the subsequent behaviour 
of the tragedy's principal actors; "now who's 
guilty?" 

" Exactly," echoed Crown, with a click in his 
throat. " Who's guilty? What's your theory? " 

She was silent, eyes downcast, her hands 
smoothing the black, much-worn skirt over her 
lean knees. Recital of the gruesome story, the 
death of her only child, had left her unmoved, 
had not quickened her breathing. 

" In telling you that," she resumed, her rest- 
less eyes striking his at rapid intervals, " I think 
I'll put you in a position to get the right man 
if you'll act." 



188 "NO CLUE!" 

" Oh, I'll act! " he declared, largely. " Don't 
bother your head about that! " 

" Of course, it's only a theory " 

"Yes; I know! And I'll keep it to myself." 

"Very well. Arthur Sloane is prostrated, 
can't be interviewed. He can't be interviewed, 
for the simple reason that he's afraid he'll tell 
what he knows. Why is he afraid of that? Be- 
cause he knows too much, for his own comfort, 
and too much for his daughter's comfort. How 
does he know it? Because he saw enough night 
before last to leave him sure of the murderer's 
identity. 

" He was the man who turned on the light, 
showing Webster and Judge Wilton bending 
over Mildred's body. It occurred at a time when 
usually he is in his first sound sleep from bro- 
mides. Something must have happened to 
awake him, an outcry, something. And yet, he 
says he didn't see them Wilton and Web- 
ster." 

" By gravy ! " exclaimed the sheriff, awe- 
struck. 

"Either," she continued, "Arthur Sloane 
saw the murder done, or he looked out in time 
to see who the murderer was. The facts sub- 
stantiate that. They are corroborated by his 
subsequent behaviour. Immediately after the 
murder he was in a condition that couldn't be 



MR. CROWN FORMS AN ALLIANCE 189 

explained by the mere fact that he's a sufferer 
from chronic nervousness. When Hastings 
asked him to take a handkerchief, he would 
have fallen to the ground but for the judge's 
help. He couldn't hold an electric torch. And, 
ever since, he's been in bed, afraid to talk. Why, 
he even refused to talk to Hastings, the man he's 
retained for the family's protection ! " 

" He did, did he ! How do you know that, 
Mrs. Brace?" 

" Isn't it enough that I know it or advance 
it as a theory? " 

" Did I thought, possibly, Jarvis, the valet, 
told you." 

She ignored that. 

" Now, as to the daughter of the house. There 
was only one possible reason for Lucille Sloane's 
hiring Hastings: she was afraid somebody in 
the house, W T ebster, of course, would be arrested. 
Being in love with him, she never would have 
suspected him unless there had been concrete, 
undeniable evidence of his guilt. Do you grasp 
that reasoning? " 

" Sure, I do ! " Mr. Crown condemned him- 
self. " W T hat I'm wondering is why I didn't see 
it long ago." 

" She, too, you recall, was looking out of a 
window on that side of the hcuse scarcely 
fifteen yards from where the crime was done. 



190 "NO CLUE!" 

It's not hard to believe that she saw what her 
father saw: the murder or the murderer. 

" Mr. Crown, if you can make her or her father 
talk, you'll get the truth of this thing, the truth 
and the murderer. 

"And look at Judge Wilton's part. You 
asked me why I went to his office this morning. 
I went because I'm sure he knows the truth. 
Didn't he stay right at Webster's side when 
old Hastings interviewed Webster yesterday? 
Why? To keep Webster from letting out, in his 
panic, a secret which both of them knew." 

The sheriff's admiration by this time was 
boundless. He felt driven to give it expression. 

" Mrs. Brace, you're a loo-loo ! A loo-loo, by 
gravy ! Sure, that was his reason. He couldn't 
have had any other ! " 

" As for Webster himself," she carried on her 
exposition, without emotion, without the slight- 
est recognition of her pupil's praise, " he proves 
the correctness of everything we've said, so far. 
That secret which the judge feared he would 
reveal, that secret which old Hastings was 
blundering after that secret, Mr. Crown, was 
such a danger to him that, to escape the ques- 
tioning of even stupid old Hastings, he could 
do nothing but crumple up on the floor and 
feign illness, prostration. Why, don't you see, 
he was afraid to talk ! " 



ME. CEOWN FOEMS AN ALLIANCE 191 

" Everything you say hits the mark ! " agreed 
Crown, smiling happily. " Centre-shots ! Cen- 
tre-shots! You've been right from the very be- 
ginning. You tried to tell me all this yesterday 
morning, and, fool that I was fool that Hast- 
ings was! " He switched to a summary of what 
she had put into his mind : " It's right ! Webster 
killed her, and Sloane and his daughter saw 
him at it. Even Wilton knows it and he a 
judge! It seems impossible. By gravy! he 
ought to be impeached." 

A new idea struck him. Mrs. Brace, imper- 
turbable, exhibiting no elation, was watching 
him closely. She saw his sudden change of 
countenance. He had thought : " She didn't rea- 
son this out. Eussell saw the murder the cow- 
ard and he's told her. He ran away from " 

Another suspicion attacked him : " But that was 
Jarvis' night off. Has she seen Jarvis? " 

Impelled to put this fresh bewilderment into 
words, he was stayed by the restless, brilliant 
eyes with which she seemed to penetrate his 
lumbering mind. He was afraid of losing her 
cooperation. She was too valuable an ally to 
affront. He kept quiet. 

She brought him back to her purpose. 

" Then, you agree with me? You think Web- 
ster's guilty? " 

" Think ! " He almost shouted his contempt 



192 "NO CLUE!" 

of the inadequate word. " Think ! I know ! 
Guilty? The man's black with guilt." 

" I'm sure of it," she said, curiously skilful 
in surrendering to him all credit for that vital 
discovery. " What are you going to do now 
that you know? " 

" Make him talk, turn him inside out ! Play- 
ing sick, is he! I'm going back to Sloanehurst 
this evening. I'm going to start something. 
You can take this from me: Webster'll loosen 
that tongue of his before another sun rises ! " 

But that was not her design. 

" You can't do it," she objected, her voice 
heavy with disappointment. " Dr. Garnet, your 
own coroner, says questioning will kill him. Dr. 
Garnet's as thoroughly fooled as Hastings, and," 
she prodded him with suddenly sharp tone, 
"you." 

" That's right." He was crestfallen, plucking 
at his chin. " That's hard to get around. But 
I've got to get around it! I've got to show 
results, Mrs. Brace. People, some of the papers 
even, are already hinting that I'm too easy on 
a rich man and his friend." 

"Yes," she said, evenly. "And you told I 
understood you'd act, on our theory." 

" I've got to ! I've got to act ! " 

His confusion was manifest. He did not know 
what to do, and he was silent, hoping for a 



MB. CROWN FORMS AN ALLIANCE 193 

suggestion from her. She let him wait. The 
pause added to his embarrassment. 

" What would that is," he forced himself to 
the appeal, " I was wondering anything occur 
to you? See any way out of it? " 

" Of course, I know nothing about such pro- 
cedure," she replied to that, slowly, as if she 
groped for a new idea. " But, if you got the 
proof from somewhere else, enough to warrant 
the arrest of Webster " Her smile depre- 
cated her probable ineptness. " If Arthur 
Sloane " 

He fairly fell upon the idea. 

" Right ! " he said, clapping his hands together. 
" Sloane's no dying man, is he? And he knows 
the whole story. Right you are, Mrs. Brace! 
He can shake and tremble and whine all he 
pleases, but tonight he's my meat my meat, 
right! Talk? You bet he'll talk !" 

She considered, looking at the opposite wall. 
He was convinced that she examined the proj- 
ect, viewing it from the standpoint of his in- 
terest, seeking possible dangers of failure. 
Nevertheless, he hurried her decision. 

" It's the thing to do, isn't it? " 

" I should think so," she said at last. " You, 
with your mental forcefulness, your ability as 
a questioner why, I don't see how you can fail 
to get at what he knows. Beside, you have the 



194 "NO CLUE!" 

element of surprise on your side. That will go 
far toward sweeping him off his feet." 

He was again conscious of his debt of grati- 
tude to this woman, and tried to voice it. 

" This is the first time," he declared, big with 
confidence, " I've felt that I had the right end 
of this case." 

When she had closed the door on him, she 
went back to the living room and set back in 
its customary place the chair he had occupied. 
Her own was where it always belonged. From 
there she went into the bathroom and, as Hast- 
ings had seen her do before, drew a glass of 
water which she drank slowly. 

Then, examining her hard, smooth face in the 
bedroom mirror, she said aloud: 

"Pretty soon, now, somebody will talk busi- 
ness with me." 

There was no elation in her voice. But her 
lips were, for a moment, thick and wet, chang- 
ing her countenance into a picture of inordinate 
greed. 



XV 

IN ARTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM 

HASTINGS went back to Sloanehurst that 
evening for another and more forceful 
attempt to argue Arthur Sloane into 
frankness. Like Mrs. Brace, he could not get 
away from the definite conclusion that Lucille's 
father was silent from fear of telling what he 
knew. Moreover, he realized that, without a 
closer connection with Sloane, his own handling 
of the case was seriously impeded. 

Lucille was on the front porch, evidently wait- 
ing for him, although he had not notified her 
in advance of his visit. She went hurriedly 
down the steps and met him on the walk. When 
he began an apology for having to annoy her 
so frequently, she cut short his excuses. 

" Oh, but I'm glad you're here so glad! We 
need your help. The sheriff's here." 

She put her hand on his coat sleeve; he could 
feel the tremour of it as she pulled, uncon- 
sciously, on the cloth. She turned toward the 
verandah steps. 

" What's he doing? " he asked, detaining her. 

195 



196 "NO CLUE!" 

" He's in father's room," she said in feverish 
haste, " asking him all sorts of questions, say- 
ing ridiculous things. Really, I'm afraid for 
father's health ! Can't you go in now? " 

"Couldn't Judge Wilton manage him? Isn't 
the judge here? " 

" No. He came over at dinner time ; but he 
went back to the Randalls'. Father didn't feel 
up to talking to him." 

Crown, she explained, had literally forced his 
way into the bedroom, disregarding her pro- 
tests and paying no attention to the pretence 
of physical resistance displayed by Jarvis. 

" The man seems insane ! " she said. " I want 
you to make him leave father's room please! " 

She halted near the library door, leaving the 
matter in Hastings' hands. Since entering the 
house he had heard Crown's voice, raised to the 
key of altercation; and now, when he stepped 
into Sloane's room, the rush of words continued. 

The sheriff, unaware of the newcomer, stood 
near the bed, emphasizing his speech with rest- 
less arms and violent motions of his head, as 
if to galvanize into response the still and pros- 
trate form before him. On the opposite side of 
the bed stood the sepulchral Jarvis, flashing 
malign looks at Crown, but chiefly busy, with 
unshaking hands, preparing a beverage of some 
sort for the sick man. 



IN ARTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM 197 

Sloane lay on his back, eyes closed, face under 
the full glare of the reading 4ight. His expres- 
sion indicated both boredom and physical suffer- 
ing. 

" have to make an arrest ! " Crown was say- 
ing. " You're making me take that action 
ain't you? I come in here, considerate as I 
know how to be, and I ask you for a few facts. 
Do you give 'em to me? Not by a long shot! 
You lie there in that bed, and talk about leaping 
angels, and say I bore you! Well, Mr. Sloane, 
that won't get you a thing! You're where I 
said you were: it's either Webster that will be 
arrested or yourself! Now, I'm giving you 
another chance. I'm asking you what you saw; 
and you can tell me or take the consequences ! " 

Hastings thought : " He's up that gum stump 
of his again, and don't know how to quit talk- 
ing." 

Sloane made no answer. 

" Well," thundered Crown. " I'm asking 
you!" 

"Moaning martyrs!" Sloane protested in a 
thin, querulous tone. " Jarvis, the bromide." 

" All right ! " the sheriff delivered his ulti- 
matum. " I'll stick to what I said. Webster 
may be too sick to talk, but not too sick to 
have a warrant served on him. He'll be arrested 
because you won't tell me " 



198 "NO CLUE!" 

Hastings spoke then. 

" Gentlemen ! " he greeted pleasantly. " Mr. 
Sloane, good evening. Mr. Sheriff am I inter- 
rupting a private confernce? " 

" Fiery fiends ! " wailed Sloane. " Another ! " 

Hastings gave his attention to Crown. He 
was certain that the man, balked by Sloane's 
refusal to " talk," would welcome an excuse for 
leaving the room. 

"Let me see you a moment, will you?" He 
put a hand on the sheriff's shoulder, persuading : 
" It's important, right now." 

" But I want to know what Mr. Sloane's go- 
ing to say," Crown blustered. " If he'll 
tell " 

Hastings stopped him with a whisper: 
"That's exactly what he'll do soon! " 

He led the sheriff into the hall. They went 
into the parlour. 

" Now," Hastings began, in genial tone; "did 
you get anything from him?" 

" Not a dad-blamed thing ! " Crown was still 
blustery. " But he'll talk before I'm through ! 
You can put your little bets down on that ! " 

" All right. You've had your chance at him. 
Better let me see him." 

Crown looked his distrust. He was thinking 
of Mrs. Brace's warning that this man had made 
a fool of him. 



IN ARTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM 199 

" I'm not trying to put anything over on you," 
the detective assured him. " Fact is, I'm out 
here for the newspaper men. They've had noth- 
ing from him ; they've asked me to get his story. 
I'll give it to you before I see them. What do 
you say? " 

Crown still hesitated. 

" If, after you've heard it," Hastings added, 
" you want to question him further, you can do 
it, of course. But this way we take two shots 
at it." 

To that, the other finally agreed. 

Hastings found Sloane smoking a cigarette, 
his eyes still closed. Jarvis was behind a screen 
near the door, now and then clinking glass 
against glass as he worked. 

The old man took a chair near the bed and 
waited for Sloane to speak. He waited a long 
time. Finally, the invalid looked at him from 
under lowered lids, slyly, like a child peeping. 
Hastings returned the look with a pleasant 
smile, his shrewd eyes sparkling over the rims 
of his spectacles. 

" Well ! " Sloane said at last, in a whiney tone. 
" What do you want? " 

" First," Hastings apologized, " I want to say 
how sorry I am I didn't make myself clearly 
understood night before last when I told Miss 
Sloane I'd act as mouthpiece for this house- 



200 "NO CLUE!" 

hold. I didn't mean I could invent a statement 
for each of you, or for any of you. What I 
did mean amounts to this: if you, for instance, 
would tell me what you know all you know 
about this murder, I could relay it to the re- 
porters and to the sheriff, who's been annoying 
you so this evening. As " 

" Flat-headed fiends ! " Sloane cut in, writhing 
under the light coverlet. " Another harangue ! " 

Hastings kept his temper. 

" No harangue about it. But it's to come to 
this, Mr. Sloane: you're handicapping me, and 
the reporters and the sheriff don't trust you." 

" Why? Why don't they trust me? " shrilled 
Sloane, writhing again. 

"Ill tell you in a very few words: because 
you refused to testify at the inquest yesterday, 
giving illness as an excuse. That's one reason. 
The " 

"Howling helions! W 7 asn't I ill? Didn't I 
have enough to make me ill? Jarvis, a little 
whiskey ! " 

" Dr. Garnet hasn't told them so the re- 
porters. He won't tell them so. In fact," 
Hastings said, with less show of cordiality, 
" from all he said to me, I gather he doesn't 
think you an ill man that is, dangerously ill." 

" And because of that, they say what, these 
reporters, this sheriff? What? " 



IN ARTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM 201 

" They're in ugly mood, Mr. Sloane. They're 
saying you're trying to protect somebody by 
keeping still about a thing which you should 
be the first to haul into daylight. That's it 
in a nutshell." 

Sloane had stopped trembling. He sat up in 
the bed and stared at the detective out of steady, 
hard eyes. He waved away the whiskey Jarvis 
held toward him. 

" And you want what, Mr. Hastings? " he in- 
quired, a curiously effective sarcasm in his 
voice. 

" A statement covering every second from the 
time you waked up Saturday night until you 
saw the body." 

" A statement ! Reporters ! " He was snarl- 
ing on that. " What's got into you, anyway? 
What are you trying to do make people sus- 
pect me of the murder make 'em suspect 
Berne? " 

He threw away the cigarette and shook his 
fist at Hastings. He gulped twice before he 
could speak again; he seemed on the point of 
choking. 

" In an ugly mood, are they? Well, they can 
stay in an ugly mood. You, too! And that 
hydrophobiac sheriff! Quivering and crucified 
saints! I've had enough of all of you all of 
you, understand! Get out of here! Get out! " 



202 "NO CLUE!" 

Although his voice was shrill, there was no 
sound of weakness in it. The trembling that 
attacked him was the result of anger, not of 
nervousness. 

Hastings rose, astounded by the outbreak. 

" I'm afraid you don't realize the seriousness 
of " 

" Oh, get out of here !" Sloane interrupted 
again. " You've imposed on my daughter with 
your talk of being helpful, and all that rot, 
but you can't hoodwink me. What the devil 
do you mean by letting that sheriff come in 
here and subject me to all this annoyance and 
shock? You'd save us from unpleasantness! " 

He spoke more slowly now, as if he cudgelled 
his brain for the most biting sarcasm, the most 
unbearable insolence. 

" Don't realize the seriousness ! Flat-headed 
fiends ! Are you any nearer the truth now than 
you were at the start? Try to understand this, 
Mr. Hastings: you're discharged, fired! From 
now on, I'm in charge of what goes on in this 
house. If there's any trouble to be avoided, I'll 
attend to it. Get that! and get out! " 

Hastings, opening his mouth for angry re- 
tort, checked himself. He stood a moment silent, 
shaken by the effort it cost him to maintain his 
self-control. 

" Humph! " Sloane's nasal, twangy exclama- 



IN ARTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM 203 

tion was clearly intended to provoke him fur- 
ther. 

But, without a word, he turned and left the 
room. Passing the screen near the door, he 
heard Jarvis snicker, a discreet echo of Sloane's 
goading ridicule. 

On his way back to the parlour, the old man 
made up his mind to discount Sloane's be- 
haviour. 

" I've got to take a chance," he counselled 
himself, " but I know I'm right in doing it. 
A big responsibility but I'm right! " 

Then he submitted this report: 

" He says nothing new, Crown. Far as I can 
make out, nothing unusual waked him up that 
night except chronic nervousness; he turned 
on that light to find some medicine; he knew 
nothing of the murder until Judge Wilton called 
him." 

" Humph ! " growled Crown. " And you fall 
for that!" 

Hastings eyed him sternly. " It's the state- 
ment I'm going to give to the reporters." 

The sheriff was silent, irresolute. Hastings 
congratulated himself on his earlier deduction: 
that Crown, unable to frighten Sloane into com- 
municativeness, was thankful for an excuse to 
withdraw. 

Hendricks had reported the two-hour confer- 



204 "NO CLUE!" 

ence between Crown and Mrs. Brace late that 
afternoon. Hastings decided now : " The man's 
in cahoots with her. His ally! And he won't 
act until he's had another session with her. 
And she won't advise an arrest for a day or two 
anyway. Her game is to make him play on 
Sloane's nerves for a while. She advises 
threats, not arrests which suits me, to a T ! " 

He fought down a chuckle, thinking of that 
alliance. 

Crown corroborated his reasoning. 

" All right, Hastings," he said doggedly. " I'm 
not going back to his room. I gave him his 
chance. He can take the consequences." 

" What consequences? " 

" I'd hardly describe 'em to his personal rep- 
resentative, would I ? But you can take this from 
me: they'll come soon enough and rough 
enough ! " 

Hastings made no reference to having been 
dismissed by Sloane. He was glad when Crown 
changed the subject. 

" Hastings, you saw the reporters this after- 
noon I've been wondering they asked me did 
they ask you whether you suspected the valet 
Jarvis?" 

"Of what?" 

Killing her." 

"No; they didn't ask me." 



IN ARTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM 205 

"Funny," said Crown, ill at ease. "They 
asked me." 

" So you said," Hastings reminded, looking 
hard at him. 

" Well ! " Crown blurted it out. " Do you 
suspect him? Are you working on that line 
at all? " 

Hastings paused. He had no desire to mis- 
lead him. And yet, there was no reason for 
confiding in him and delay was at present the 
Hastings plan. 

"I'll tell you, Crown," he said, finally; " I'll 
work on any line that can lead to the guilty 
man. What do you know? " 

"Who? Me?" Crown's tone indicated the 
absurdity of suspecting Jarvis. " Not a 
thing." 

But it gave Hastings food for thought. Was 
Mrs. Brace in communication with Jarvis? And 
did Crown know that? Was it possible that 
Crown wanted to find out whether Hastings 
was having Jarvis shadowed? How much of a 
fool was the woman making of the sheriff, any- 
way? 

Another thing puzzled him: why did Mrs. 
Brace suspect Arthur Sloane of withholding the 
true story of what he had seen the night of 
the murder? Hastings' suspicion, amounting to 
certainty, came from his knowledge that the 



206 " NO CLUE ! " 

man's own daughter thought him deeply in- 
volved in the crime. But Mrs. Brace was she 
clever enough to make that deduction from the 
known facts? Or did she have more direct in- 
formation from Sloanehurst than he had thought 
possible? 

He decided not to leave the sheriff entirely 
subject to her schemes and suggestions. He 
would give Mr. Crown something along another 
line a brake, as it were, on impulsive 
action. 

"You talk about arresting Webster right 
away or Sloane," he began, suddenly confiding. 
" You wouldn't want to make a mistake would 
you? " 

Crown rose to that. "Why? What do you 
know specially? " 

"Well, not so much, maybe. But it's worth 
thinking about. I'll give you the facts confi- 
dentially, of course. Hub Hill's about a hun- 
dred yards from this house, on the road to 
Washington. When automobiles sink into it 
hub-deep, they come out with a lot of mud on 
their wheels black, loamy mud. Ain't any 
other mud like that Hub Hill mud anywhere 
near here. It's just special and peculiar to Hub 
Hill. That so?" 

"Yes," agreed Crown, absorbed. 

"All right. How, then, did Eugene Russell 



IN ARTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM 207 

keep black, Hub Hill mud on his shoes that 
night if he went the four miles on foot to where 
Otis picked him up?" 

"Eh?" said Crown, chin fallen. 

" By the time he'd run four miles, his shoes 
would have been covered with the red mud of 
that mile of ' dirt road ' or the thin, grey mud 
of the three miles of pike wouldn't they? 
They'd have thrown off that Hub Hill mud 
pretty quick, wouldn't they? " 

"Thunder!" marvelled Crown. "That's 
right ! And those shoes were in his room ; I saw 
'em." He gurgled, far back in his throat. " Say! 
How did he get from Hub Hill to where Otis 
picked him up? " 

" That's what I say," declared Hastings, very 
bland. "How?" 

To Lucille, after Crown's departure, the de- 
tective declared his intention to " stand by " her, 
to stay on the case. He repeated his statement 
of yesterday: he suspected too much, and knew 
too little, to give it up. 

He told her of the responsibility he had as- 
sumed in giving the sheriff the fictitious Sloane 
statement. " That is, it's not fictitious, in itself ; 
it's what your father has been saying. But I 
told Crown, and I'm going to tell the newspaper 
men, that he says it's all he knows, really. And 
I hate to do it because, honestly, Miss Sloane, 



208 " NO CLUE ! " 

I don't think it is all. I'm afraid he's deceiving 
us." 

She did not contradict that; it was her own 
opinion. 

" However," the old man made excuse, " I had 
to do it in view of things as they are. And 
he's got to stick to it, now that I've made it 
'official,' so to speak. Do you think he will?" 

She did not see why not. She would explain 
to him the importance, the necessity, of that 
course. 

" He's so mistaken in what he's doing ! " she 
said. " I don't understand him really. You 
know how devoted to me he is. He called me 
into his room again an hour or two ago and 
tried to comfort me. He said he had reason to 
know everything would come out as it should. 
But he looked so so uncertain ! Oh, Mr. Hast- 
ings, who did kill that woman?" 

" I think I'll be able to prove who did it- 
let's see," he spoke with a light cheerfulness, and 
at the same time with sincerity; "I'll be able 
to prove it in less than a week after Mrs. Brace 
takes that money from you." 

She said nothing to that, and he leaned for- 
ward sharply, peering at her face, illegible to 
him in the darkness of the verandah. 

" So much depends on that, on you," he added. 
" You won't fail me tomorrow? " 



IN AKTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM 209 

" I'll do my best," she said, earnestly, strug- 
gling against depression. 

" She must take that money," he declared with 
great emphasis. "She must!" 

"And you think she will?" 

" Miss Sloane, I know she will," he said, a 
fatherly encouragement in his voice. " I'm sel- 
dom mistaken in people; and I know I've judged 
this woman correctly. Money's her weakness. 
Love of it has destroyed her already. Offering 
this bribe to anybody else situated as she is 
would be ridiculous but she she'll take 
it." 

Lucille sat a long time on the verandah after 
Hastings had gone. She was far more depressed 
than he had suspected; she had to endure so 
much, she thought the suspense, which grew 
heavier as time went by; the notoriety; Berne 
Webster still in danger of his life; her father's 
inexplicable pose of indifference toward every- 
thing; the suspicions of the newspapers and 
the public of both her father and Berne; 
and the waiting, waiting, waiting for 
what? 

A little moan escaped her. 

What if Mrs. Brace did take the marked 
money? What would that show? That she was 
acting with criminal intent, Hastings had said. 
But he had another and more definite object 



210 "NO CLUE!" 

in urging her to this undertaking; he expected 
from it a vital development which he had not 
explained she was sure. She worried with that 
idea. 

Her confidence in Hastings had been without 
qualification. But what was he doing? Any- 
thing? Judge Wilton was forever saying, 
"Trust Hastings; he's the man for this case." 
And that was his reputation; people declared 
that, if anybody could get to the bottom of all 
this mystery, he could. Yet, two whole days 
had passed since the murder, and he had just 
said another week might be required to work 
out his plan of detection whatever that plan 
was. 

Another week of this ! She put her hot palms 
to her hotter temples, striving for clarity of 
thought. But she was dazed by her terror 
her isolated terror, for some of her thoughts 
were such that she could share them with no- 
body not even Hastings. 

" If the sheriff makes no arrest within the 
next few days, I'll be out of the woods," he 
had told her. " Delay is what I want." 

There, again, was discouragement, for here 
was -the sheriff threatening to serve a warrant 
on Berne within the next twenty-four hours! 
She had heard Crown make the threat, and to 
her it had seemed absolutely final: unless her 



IN ARTHUR SLOANE'S ROOM 211 

father revealed something which Crown wanted, 
whether her father knew it or not, Berne was 
to be subjected to this humiliation, this added 
blow to his chance for recovery! 

She sprang up, throwing her hands wide and 
staring blindly at the stars. 

The woman whom she was to bribe cast a 
deep shadow on her imagination. Sharing the 
feeling of many others, she had reached the 
reluctant conclusion that Mrs. Brace in some 
way knew more than anybody else about the 
murder and its motives. It was, she told her- 
self, a horrid feeling, and without reason. But 
she could not shake it off. To her, Mrs. Brace 
was a figure of sinister power, an agent of 
ugliness, waiting to do evil waiting for 
what? " 

By a great effort, she steadied her jangled 
nerves. Hastings was counting on her. And 
work even work in the dark was preferable 
to this idleness, this everlasting summing-up of 
frightful possibilities without a ray of hope. 
She would do her best to make that woman take 
the money ! 

Tomorrow she would be of real service to 
Berne Webster she would atone, in some small 
measure, for the sorrow she had brought upon 
him, discarding him because of empty gossip! 
Would he continue to love her? Perhaps, if 



212 " NO CLUE ! " 

she had not discarded him, Mildred Brace would 
not have been murdered. 

A groan escaped her. She fled into the house, 
away from her thoughts. 



XVI 

THE BRIBE 

IT was nine o'clock the following evening 
when Lucille Sloane, sure that she had en- 
tered the Walman unobserved, rang the bell 
of Mrs. Brace's apartment. Her body felt re- 
markably light and facile, as if she moved in 
a tenuous, half-real atmosphere. There were 
moments when she had the sensation of floating. 
Her brain worked with extraordinary rapidity. 
She was conscious of an unusually resourceful 
intelligence, and performed a series of mental 
gymnastics, framing in advance the sentences 
she would use in the interview confronting her. 
The constant thought at the back of her brain 
was that she would succeed; she would speak 
and act in such a way that Mrs. Brace would 
take the money. She was buoyed by a fierce 
determination to be repaid for all the suspense, 
all the agony of heart, that had weighed her 
down throughout this long, leaden-footed day 
the past twenty-four hours unproductive of a 
single enlightening incident. 

213 



214 "NO CLUE!" 

Mrs. Brace opened the door and, with a 
scarcely perceptible nod of the head, motioned 
her into the living room. Neither of them 
spoke until they had seated themselves on the 
chairs by the window. Even then, the silence 
was prolonged, until Lucille realized that her 
tongue was dry and uncomfortably large for 
her mouth. An access of trembling shook her. 
She tried to smile and knew that her lips were 
twisting in a ghastly grin. 

Mrs. Brace moved slowly to and fro on the 
armless rocker, her swift, appraising eyes tak- 
ing in her visitor's distress. The smooth face 
wore its customary, inexpressive calm. Lucille, 
striving desperately to arrive at some opinion 
of what the woman thought, saw that she might 
as well try to find emotion in a statue. 

" II," the girl finally attained a quick, flur- 
ried utterance, "want to thank you for for 
having this this talk with me." 

"What do you want to talk about, Miss 
Sloane? " 

The low, metallic voice was neither friendly 
nor hostile. It expressed, more than anything 
else, a sardonic, bullying self-sufficiency. 

It both angered and encouraged Lucille. She 
perceived the futility of polite, introductory 
phrases here; she could go straight to her pur- 
pose, be brutally frank. She gave Mrs. Brace 



THE BRIBE 215 

a brilliant, disarming smile, a proclamation of 
fellowship. Her confidence was restored. 

" I'm sure we can talk sensibly together, Mrs. 
Brace," she explained, dissembling her indigna- 
tion. " We can get down to business, at once." 

" What business? " inquired the older woman, 
with some of the manner Hastings had seen, an 
air of lying in wait. 

" I said, on the 'phone, it was something of 
advantage to you didn't I?" 

" Yes ; you said that." 

" And, of course, I want something from you." 

Naturally." 

" I'll tell you what it is." Lucille spoke now 
with cool precision, as yet untouched by the 
horror she had expected to feel. " It's a matter 
of money." 

Mrs. Brace's tongue came out to the edge of 
the thin line of her lips. Her nostrils quivered, 
once, to the sharply indrawn breath. Her eyes 
were more furtive. 

" Money? " she echoed. " For what? " 

" There's no good of my making long explana- 
tions, Mrs. Brace," Lucille said. " I've read the 
newspapers, every line of them, about our trou- 
ble. And I saw the references to your finances, 
your lack of money." 

" Yes? " Mrs. Brace's right hand lay on her 
lap; the thumb of it began to move against the 



216 " NO CLUE ! " 

forefinger rapidly, the motion a woman makes 
in feeling the texture of cloth or the trick of 
a bank clerk separating paper money. 

" Yes. I read, also, what you said about the 
tragedy. Today I noticed that the only note of 
newness in the articles in the papers came from 
you from your saying that ' in a few days, three 
or four at the outside ' that was your language, 
I'm quite sure you'd produce evidence on which 
an arrest would be made. I've intelligence 
enough to see that the public ? s interest in you 
is so great, the sympathy for you is so great, 
that your threats I mean, predictions, or opin- 
ions colour everything that's written by the re- 
porters. You see? " 

"Do I see what?" 

Despite her excellent pose of waiting with 
nothing more than a polite interest, Lucille saw 
in her a pronounced alteration. That was not 
so much in her face as in her body. Her limbs 
had a look of rigidity. 

"Don't you see what I mean?" Lucille in- 
sisted. " I see that you can make endless trou- 
ble for us-^-for all of us at Sloanehurst. You 
can make people believe Mr. Webster guilty, and 
that father and I are shielding him. People 
listen to what you say. They seem to be on 
your side." 

"Well?" 



THE BRIBE 217 

" I wondered if you wouldn't stop your in- 
terviews your accusations? " 

The younger woman's eagerness, evident now 
in the variety of her gestures and the rapid pro- 
cession of pallour and flush across her cheeks, 
persuaded Mrs. Brace that Lucille was acting 
on an impulse of her own, not as an agent to 
carry out another's well designed scheme. The 
older woman, at that idea, felt safe. She asked : 

" And you want what? " 

" I've come here to ask you to tell me all you 
know, or to be quiet altogether." 

" I'm afraid I don't understand fully," re- 
turned Mrs. Brace, with an exaggerated bewil- 
derment. "Tell all I know?" 

" That is, if you do know anything you haven't 
told ! " Lucille urged her. " Oh, don't you see? 
I'm saying to you that I want to put an end to 
this dreadful suspense ! " 

Mrs. Brace laughed disagreeably; her face 
was harder, less human. " You mean I'm amus- 
ing myself, exerting myself needlessly, as a mat- 
ter of spite? Do you mean to tell me that? " 

" No ! No ! " Lucille denied, impatient with 
herself for lack of clearness. " I mean I'm sure 
you're attacking an innocent man. And I'm 
willing, I'm anxious oh, I hope so much, Mrs. 
Brace to make an agreement with you a finan- 
cial arrangement " She paused the frac- 



218 " NO CLUE ! " 

tional part of a second on that ; and, seeing that 
the other did not resent the term, she added: 
" to pay you to stop it. Isn't that clear? " 

" Yes ; that's clear." 

" Understand me, please. What I ask is that 
you say nothing more to the reporters, the sheriff 
or the Washington police, that will have the 
effect of hounding them on against Mr. Webster. 
I want to eliminate from the situation all the 
influence you've exerted to make Mr. Crown be- 
lieve Mr. Webster's guilty and my father's pro- 
tecting him." 

" Let me think," Mrs. Brace said, coolly. 

Lucille exulted inwardly, " She'll do it ! She'U 
do it ! " The hard eyes dissected her eager face. 
The girl drew back in her chair, thinking now: 
" She suspects who sent me ! " 

At last, the older woman spoke: 

" The detective, Hastings, would never have 
allowed you to come here, Miss Sloane. Excuse 
my frankness," she interjected, with a smile 
she meant to be friendly ; " but you're frank with 
me; we're not mincing matters; and I have to 
be careful. He'd have warned you that your 
errand's practical confession of your knowledge 
of something incriminating Berne Webster. If 
you didn't suspect the man even more strongly 
than I do, you'd never have been driven to 
this." 



THE BRIBE 219 

She leaned the rocker back and crossed her 
knees, the movement throwing into high relief 
the hard lankness of her figure. She gazed at 
the wall, over Lucille's head, as she dealt with 
the possibilities that presented themselves to 
her analysis. Her manner was that of a certain 
gloating enjoyment, a thinly covered, semi-or- 
derly greediness. 

" She's not even thinking of her daughter," 
Lucille thought, and went pale a moment. 
" She's as bad as Mr. Hastings said worse ! " 

" Then, too," Mrs. Brace continued, " your 
father discharged him last night." 

Lucille remembered the detective's misgivings 
about Jarvis; how else had this woman found 
that out? 

"And you've taken matters into your own 
hands. Did your father send you here to 
me? " 

"Why, no!" 

The other smiled slyly, the tip of her tongue 
again visible, her eyebrows high in interroga- 
tion. "Of course," she said; "you wouldn't 
tell me if he had. He would have warned you 
against that admission." 

" It's Mr. Webster about whom I am most 
concerned," Lucille reminded, sharpness in her 
vibrant young voice. " My father's being an- 
noyed is merely incidental." 



220 "NO CLUE!" 

"Oh, of course! Of course," Mrs. Brace 
grinned, with broad sarcasm. 

Lucille started. The meaning of that could 
not be misunderstood; she charged that the 
money was offered at Arthur Sloane's instiga- 
tion and that the concern for Berne Webster 
was merely pretence. 

Mrs. Brace saw her anger, and placated it: 

" Don't mind me, Miss Sloane. A woman 
who's had to endure what I have well, she 
doesn't always think clearly." 

" Perhaps not," Lucille assented ; but she was 
aware of a sudden longing to be done with the 
degrading work. " Now that we understand 
each other, Mrs. Brace, what do you say? " 

Mrs. Brace thought again. 

" How much? " she asked at last, her lips 
thickening. " How much, Miss Sloane, do you 
think my silence is worth? " 

Lucille took a roll of bills from her handbag. 
The woman's chair slid forward, answering to 
the forward-leaning weight of her new posture. 
She was lightly rubbing her palms together, as, 
with head a little bowed, she stared at the money 
in the younger woman's hand. 

"I have here five hundred dollars," Lucille 
began. 

"What!" 

Mrs. Brace said that roughly ; and, in violent 



THE BRIBE 221 

anger, drew back, the legs of her chair grating 
on the floor. 

For a moment Lucille gazed at her, uncom- 
prehending. 

" Oh ! " she said, uncertainly. " You mean 
it isn't enough? " 

" Enough ! " Mrs. Brace's rage and disap- 
pointment grew, her lowered brows a straight 
line close down to her eyes. 

" But I could get more ! " Lucille exclaimed, 
struggling with disgust. " This," she added, 
with ready invention, " can serve as a part pay- 
ment, a promise of " 

" Ah-h ! " the older woman exclaimed. 
" That's different. I misunderstood." 

She put down the signals of her wrath, suc- 
ceeding in that readjustment so promptly that 
Lucille stared at her in undisguised amazement. 

"You must pardon me, Miss Sloane. I 
thought you were making me the victim of your 
ridicule, some heartless joke." 

" Then, we can come to an agreement? That 
is, if this money is the first " 

She broke the sentence. Mrs. Brace had put 
up her hand, and now held her head to one side, 
listening. 

There was a step clearly audible outside, in 
the main hall. The next moment the doorbell 
rang. They sat motionless. When the bell 



222 " NO CLUE ! " 

rang again, Mrs. Brace informed her with a look 
that she would not answer it. 

But the ringing continued, became a pro- 
longed jangle. It got on Lucille's already 
strained nerves. 

" Suppose you slip into the bedroom," Mrs. 
Brace whispered. 

" Oh, no ! " Lucille whispered back. 

She was weighed down by black premonition ; 
she hoped Mrs. Brace would not open the door. 

The bell rang again. 

"You'll have to!" Mrs. Brace said at last. 
" I won't let anybody in. I have to answer it! " 

" You'll send them away whoever it is at 
once? " 

" At once. I don't want you seen here, any 
more than you want to be seen ! " 

Lucille started toward the bedroom. At the 
first step she took, Mrs. Brace put a hand on 
her arm. 

" That money ! " she demanded, in a low whis- 
per. " I'll take it.'J 

"And do what I asked stop attacking us?" 

"Yes. Yes!" 

Lucille gave her the money. 

There were no lights in the bedroom. Lucille, 
for fear of stumbling or making a noise, stood 
to one side of the door-frame, close to the wall. 

Mrs. Brace's footsteps stopped. There was 



THE BRIBE 223 

the click of the opening door. Then, there 
came to Lucille the high-pitched, querulous voice 
which she had been afraid she would hear. 
It was her father's. 



XVII 

" THE WHOLE TRUTH " 



"A >T RS - BRACE > g od evening. May I 
IY/1 come in? " 

Then followed the sound of foot- 
steps, and the closing of the door. 

" I shan't detain you long, Mrs. Brace." They 
were still in the hall. " May I come in? " 

" Certainly/' The tardy assent was the per- 
fection of indifference. 

They entered the living room. Lucille, with- 
out using her eyes, knew that her father was 
standing just within the doorway, glancing 
around with his slight squint, working his lips 
nervously, his head thrust forward. 

"Ah-h!" his shrill drawl, although he kept 
it low, carried back to Lucille. " All alone 
may I ask? " He went toward the chairs by 
the window. " That is, I hope to have well 
rather a confidential little talk with you." 

Mrs. Brace resumed her place on the armless 
rocker after she had moved a chair forward for 
him. Lucille heard it grate on the floor. Cer- 
tain that he had taken it, she looked into the 

224 



" THE WHOLE TRUTH " 225 

room. Her intuition was correct; Mrs. Brace 
had placed it so that his back was turned to 
both the bedroom door and the door into the 
entry. This made her escape possible. 

The relief she got from the thought was of 
a violent nature. It came to her like a blow, 
almost forcing a gasp from her constricted 
throat. If she could tiptoe without sound a dis- 
tance of eighteen feet, a matter of six or seven 
steps, she could leave the apartment without 
his knowledge. 

To that she was doubly urged. In the first 
place, Hastings' warning drummed upon her 
brain ; he had specified the importance of keep- 
ing even her father in ignorance of her errand. 

Upon that came another reason for flight, her 
fear of hearing what her father would say. A 
wave of nausea weakened her. She bowed down, 
there in the dark, under the burden of her sus- 
picion: he had come to do, for quite a different 
reason, what she had done! She kept away from 
definite analysis of his motive. Fear for Berne, 
or fear for himself, it was equally horrible to 
her consideration. , 

" I admire your spirit, Mrs. Brace," he was 
saying, in ingratiating tone; " and your shrewd- 
ness. I've followed all you said, in the papers. 
And I'm in hopes that we may " 

He stopped, and Lucille, judging from the thin 



226 " NO CLUE ! " 

edges of sounds that she caught, had a mental 
picture of his peering over his shoulder. He re- 
sumed: 

" I must apologize, I'm sure. But you'll real- 
ize my concern for secrecy after I've explained. 
May I ah-h-h do you mind if I look about, for 
possible hearers? " 

" It's unnecessary," came the calm, metallic 
assurance. " I've no objection to your search- 
ing my apartment, if you insist." She laughed, 
a mirthless deprecation of his timidity, and 
coolly put herself at his disposal in another 
sentence: "I've sense enough to form an idea 
of what you'll propose; and I'd scarcely want 
others to hear it would I?" 

" Ah-h-h ! " he drawled, expressing a grudging 
disposition to accept her assurance. " Certainly 
not. Well, that's very reasonable and oblig- 
ing, I'm sure." 

Again by the thin fringes of sound, Lucille 
got information of his settling into his chair. 

" Why," he began ; " why, in the name of all 
the unfathomable, inscrutable angels " 

" First, Mr. Sloane," Mrs. Brace interrupted 
him and Lucille heard the rattle of a neVs- 
paper ; " as a preface to our shall we say con- 
ference? our conference, then, let me read you 
this summary of my position. That is, if you 
care to understand my position thoroughly." 



" THE WHOLE TRUTH " 227 

She was far from her habitual quietness, rat- 
tling the newspaper incessantly. The noise, Lu- 
cille realized, would hang as a curtain between 
her father's ears and the possible sounds of 
her progress from the bedroom door to the 
entry. 

Stealing a glance into the living room, she 
saw his back and, over his stooped shoulders, 
Mrs. Brace's calm face. In that instant, the 
newspaper shook more violently enough, she 
thought, to signal cooperation. 

She sickened again at sight of that woman 
about to dispense bought favours to her father. 
The impulse to step forth and proclaim her 
presence rose strongly within her; but she was 
turned from it by fear that her interruption 
might produce disastrous results. After all, she 
was not certain of his intention. 

She knew, however, that at any moment he 
might insist on satisfying himself, by a tour 
of inspection, that he was safe from being over- 
heard. She hesitated no longer. She would try 
to get away. 

" Look at this, Mr. Sloane, if you please," 
Mrs. Brace was saying ; " notice how the items 
are made to stand out, each in a paragraph of 
large type." 

She held the paper so that Sloane -bent for- 
ward, and, against his will, was held to joint 



228 "NO CLUE!" 

perusal while she read aloud. The curtain of 
protecting noise thus was thickened. 

" ' That Mrs. Brace has knowledge of the fol- 
lowing facts/ " the harsh, colourless voice was 
reading. 

Lucille began her escape. She moved with an 
agony of precaution, taking steps only a few 
inches long, her arms held out from her sides 
to avoid unnecessary rustling of her clothing. 
She went on the balls of her feet, keeping the 
heels of her shoes always free of the floor, each 
step a slow torture. 

Her breathing stopped a hysterical con- 
traction of her chest prevented breathing. Her 
face burned like fire. Her head felt crowded, 
as if the blood tried to ooze through the con- 
fining scalp. There was a gre^t roaring in her 
ears. The pulse in her temples was like the 
blows of sledges. 

Once, midway of the distance, as she stood 
lightly balanced, with arms outstretched, some- 
thing went wrong with her equilibrium. She 
started forward as she had often done when a 
child, with the sensation of falling on her face. 
Her skirt billowed out in front of her. If she 
had had any breath in her, she would have cried 
out. 

But the automatisms of her body worked bet- 
ter than her overtaxed brain. Her right foot 



" THE WHOLE TRUTH " 229 

went out easily and softly she marvelled at 
that independent motion of her leg and, taking 
up the falling weight of her body, restored her 
balance. 

Mrs. Brace's voice had not faltered, although 
she must have seen the misstep. Arthur Sloane's 
bowed shoulders had not stirred. Mrs. Brace 
continued the printed enumeration of her stores 
of knowledge. 

Lucille took another step. She was safe ! al- 
most. There remained but a yard of her pain- 
ful progress. One more step, she comforted her- 
self, would put her on the threshold of the entry 
door, and from there to the corridor door, 
shielded by the entry wall from possible observa- 
tion by her father, would be an easy busi- 
ness. 

She completed that last step. On the thresh- 
old, she had to turn her body through an arc 
of ninety degress, unless she backed out of the 
door. This she was afraid to do ; her heel might 
meet an obstruction; a raised plank of the 
flooring, even, would mean an alarming 
noise. 

She began to turn. The reading continued. 
The whole journey from door to door, in spite 
of the anguished care of every step, had con- 
sumed scarcely a minute. She was turning, the 
balancing arms outstretched. Deep down in her 



230 "NO CLUE!" 

chest there was the beginning of a sensation, 
muscles relaxing, the promise of a long breath 
of relief. 

Her left hand or, perhaps, her elbow ; in the 
blinding, benumbing flash of consternation, she 
did not know which touched the pile of maga- 
zines on the table that was set against the door- 
frame. The magazines did not fall to the floor, 
but the fluttering of the loose cover of the one 
on top made a noise. 

She fled, taking with her the flashing memory 
of the first stirring of her father's figure and 
the crackle of the paper in Mrs. Brace's hand. 
In two light steps she was at the corridor door. 
Her hands found the latch and turned it. She 
ran down the stairs with rapid, skimming steps, 
the door clicking softly shut as she made the 
turn on the next landing. 

Her exit had been wonderfully quiet. She 
knew this, in spite of the fact that her strain- 
ing senses had exaggerated the flutter of the 
magazine cover and the click of the door into a 
terrifying volume of sound. It was entirely pos- 
sible that Mrs. Brace had been able to persuade 
her father that he had heard nothing more than 
some outside noise. She was certain that he 
had not seen her. 

She crossed the dim, narrow lobby of the Wai- 
man so quickly, and so quietly, that the girl 



"THE WHOLE TKUTH" 231 

at the telephone board did not look in her direc- 
tion. 

Once in the street, she was seized by desire to 
confide to Hastings the story of her experience. 
She decided to act on the impulse. 

He was at first more concerned with her phys- 
ical condition than with what she had to tell. 
He saw how near she was to the breaking point. 

" My dear child ! " he said, in the tone of 
fatherly solicitude which she had learned to 
like. "Comfort before conference! Here, this 
chair by the window so and this wreck of a 
fan, can you use it? Fine! Now, cool your 
flushed face in this thin, very thin stream of 
a breeze feel it? A glass of water? just for 
the tinkling of ice? That's better, isn't it? " 

The only light in the room was the reading 
lamp, under a dark-green shade, and from this 
little island of illumination there ran out a 
chaotic sea of shadows, huge waves of them, 
mounting the height of the book-shelves and 
breaking irregularly on the ceiling. 

In the dimness, as he walked back and forth 
hunting for the fan or bringing her the water, 
he looked weirdly large like, she thought dully, 
a fairy giant curiously draped. But the serenity 
of his expression touched her. She was glad 
she had come. 



232 " NO CLUE ! " 

While she told her story, he stood in front 
of her, encouraging her with a smile or a nod 
now and then, or ambled with soft step among 
the shadows, always keeping his eyes upon her. 
For the moment, her tired spirit was freshened 
by his lavish praise of the manner in which she 
had accomplished her undertaking. Following 
that, his ready sympathy made it easier for her 
to discuss her fear that her father had planned 
to bribe Mrs. Brace. 

Nevertheless, the effort taxed her severely. 
At the end of it, she leaned back and closed 
her eyes, only to open them with a start of fright 
at the resultant dizziness. The sensation of bod- 
ily lightness had left her. Her limbs felt 
sheathed in metal. An acute, throbbing pain 
racked her head. She was too weary to combat 
the depression which was like a cold, freezing 
hand at her heart. 

"You don't say anything!" she complained 
weakly. 

He stood near her chair, gazing thoughtfully 
before him. 

" I'm trying to understand it," he said ; " why 
your father did that. You're right, of course. 
He went there to pay her to keep quiet. But 
why? " 

He looked at her closely. 

"Could it be possible," he put the inquiry 



" THE WHOLE TKUTH " 233 

at last, " that he knew her before the murder? " 

" I've asked him," she said. " No ; he never 
had heard of her neither he nor Judge Wilton. 
I even persuaded him to question Jarvis about 
that. It was the same; Jarvis never had until 
last Sunday morning." 

" You think of everything ! " he congratulated 
her. 

"No! Oh, no!" 

Some quick and overmastering emotion broke 
down the last of her endurance. Whether it was 
a new and finer appreciation of his persistent, 
untiring search for the guilty man, or the re- 
alization of how sincerely he liked her, giving 
her credit for a frankness she had not exer- 
cised whatever the pivotal consideration was, 
she felt that she could no longer deceive him. 

She closed her lips tightly, to keep back the 
rising sobs, and regarded him with questioning, 
fearful eyes. 

" W T hat is it? " he asked gently, reading her 
appealing look. 

" I've a confession to make," she said miser- 
ably. 

He refused to treat it as a tragedy. 

" But it can't be very bad ! " he exclaimed 
pleasantly. " When we're overwrought, imagi- 
nation's like a lantern swinging in the wind, 
changing the size of everything every second." 



234 "NO CLUE!" 

" But it is bad ! " she insisted. " I haven't 
been fair. I couldn't bring myself to tell you 
this. I tried to think you'd get along without 
it!" 

"And now?" 

She answered him with an outward calmness 
which was, in reality, emotional dullness. She 
had suffered so much that to feel vividly was 
beyond her strength. 

" You have the right to know it," she said, 
looking at him out of brilliant, unwinking 
eyes. " It's about father. He was out there 
on the lawn before he turned on the light 
in his room. I heard him come in, a minute 
before Berne went down the back stairs and out 
to the lawn. And I heard him go to his window 
and stand there, looking out, at least five long 
minutes before he flashed on his light." 

He waited, thinking she might have more to 
tell. Construing his silence as reproof, she said, 
without changing either her expression or her 
voice : 

" I know it's awful. I should have told you. 
Perhaps, I've done great harm." 

" You've been very brave," he consoled her, 
with infinite tenderness. " But it happens that 
I'd already satisfied myself on that point. I 
knew he'd been out there." 

She was dumb, incapable of reacting to his 



" THE WHOLE TRUTH " 235 

words. Even the fact that he was smiling, with 
genuine amusement, did not affect her. 

" Here comes the grotesque element, the comi- 
cal, that's involved in so many tragedies," he 
explained. " Your father's weakness for ' cure ' 
of nervousness, and his shrinking from the ridi- 
cule he's suffered because of it there's the ex- 
planation of why he was out there that night." 

She could not see significance in that, but 
neither could she summon energy to say so. 
She wondered vaguely why he thought it funny. 

" That night rather, the early morning hours 
following while the rest of you were in the 
library, I looked through his room, and I found 
a pair of straw sandals in the closet such as 
a man could slip on and off without having to 
bend down to adjust them. And they were wet, 
inside and out. 

" Sunday morning, when Judge Wilton and I 
were at his bedside, I saw on the table a ' quack' 
pamphlet on the ' dew ' treatment for nervous- 
ness, the benefit of the ' wet, cooling grass ' upon 
the feet at night. You know the kind of thing. 
So " 

" Oh-h-h ! " she breathed, tremulous and weak. 
" So that's why he was out there ! Why didn't 
I think? Oh, how I've suspected him of " 

" But remember," he warned ; " that's why 
he went out. We still don't know what he 



236 "NO CLUE!" 

what happened after he got out there or why 
he's refused to say that he ever was out there. 
When we think of this, and other things, and, 
too, his call tonight on Mrs. Brace, for bribery 
leaving what we thought was a sickbed " 

" But he's been up all day ! " she corrected. 

" And yet," he said, and stopped, reflecting. 

" Tell me," she implored; " tell me, Mr. Hast- 
ings, do you suspect my father or not of 
the ? " 

He answered her unfinished question with a 
solemn, painstaking care: 

" Miss Sloane, you're not one who would want 
to be misled. You can bear the truth. I'd be 
foolish to say that he's not under suspicion. 
He is. Any one of the men there that night 
may have committed the murder. Webster, your 
father, Wilton only there, suspicion seems to- 
tally gratuitous Eugene Russell, Jarvis I've 
heard things about him any one of them may 
have struck that blow may have." 

" And father," she said, in a grieved bewilder- 
ment, " has paid Mrs. Brace to stop saying she 
suspects Berne," she shuddered, facing the al- 
ternative, " or himself ! " 

" You see," he framed the conclusion for her, 
" how hard he makes it for us to keep him out 
of trouble if that gets out. He's put his hand 
on the live wire of circumstantial evidence, a 



" THE WHOLE TRUTH " 237 

wire that too often thrashes about, striking the 
wrong man." 

"And Berne?" she cried out. "I think I 
could stand anything if only I knew " 

But this time the mutinous sobs came crowd- 
ing past her lips. She could not finish the 
inquiry she had begun. 



XVIII 

THE MAN WHO RODE AWAY 

IT was early in the afternoon of Wednesday 
when Mr. Hastings, responding to the pro- 
longed ringing of his telephone, took the 
receiver off the hook and found himself in com- 
munication with the sheriff of Alexandria 
county. This was not the vacillating, veering 
sheriff who had spent nearly four days accept- 
ing the hints of a detective or sitting, chameleon- 
minded, at the feet of a designing woman. Here 
was an impressive and self-appreciative gentle- 
man, one who delighted in his own deductive 
powers and relished their results. 

He said so. His confidence fairly rattled the 
wire. His words annihilated space grandly and 
leaped into the old man's receptive ear with 
sizzling and electric effect. Mr. Crown, trium- 
phant, was glad to inform others thai: he was 
making a hit with himself. 

"Hello! That you, Hastings? Well, old fel- 
low, I don't like to annoy you with an up-to- 
date rendition of ' I told you so ! ' but it's come 



THE MAN WHO EODE AWAY 239 

out, to the last syllable, exactly as I said it 
would from the very first ! " 

Ensued a pause, for dramatic effect. The de- 
tective did not break it. 

"Waiting, are you? Well, here she goes; 
Kussell's alibi's been knocked into a thousand 
pieces! It's blown up! It's gone glimmering! 
What do you think of that? " 

Hastings refrained from replying that he had 
regarded such an event as highly probable. In- 
stead, he inquired: 

" And that simplifies things? " 

"Does it!" exploded Mr. Crown. "I'm 
getting to you a few minutes ahead of the after- 
noon, papers. You'll see it all there." An apol- 
ogetic laugh came over the wire. " You'll 
excuse me, I know; I had to do this thing up 
right, put on the finishing touches before you 
even guessed what was going on. I've wound 
up the whole business. The Washington police 
nabbed Russell an hour ago, on my orders. 

"'Simplifies things?' I should say so! I 
guess you can call 'em ' simplified ' when a mur- 
der's been committed and the murderer's wait- 
ing to step into my little ring-tum-fi-diddle-dee 
of a country jail! * No clue to this mystery/ 
the papers have been saying! What's the use 
of a clue when you know a guy's guilty? That's 
what I've been whistling all along ! " 



240 "NO CLUE!" 

" But the alibi? " Hastings prompted. " You 
say it's blown up?" 

" Blown ! Gone ! Result of my sending out 
those circulars asking if any automobile parties 
passed along the Sloanehurst road the murder 
night. Remember? " 

"Yes." The old man recalled having made 
that suggestion, but did not say so. 

" This morning the chief of police of York 
York, Pennsylvania wired me. I got him by 
long-distance right away. He gave me the story, 
details absolutely right and straight, all veri- 
fied and everything. A York man, named 
Stevens, saw a newspaper account, for the first 
time this morning, of the murder. He and four 
other fellows were in a car that went up Hub 
Hill that night a little after eleven a few min- 
utes after. Hear that?" 

" Yes. Go on." 

" Stevens was on the back seat. They went 
up the hill on low terrible piece of road, he 
calls it they were no more than crawling. He 
says he was the only sober man in the crowd 
been out on a jollification tour of ten days. He 
saw a man slide on to the running board on his 
side of the car as they were creeping up the 
hill. The rest of the party was singing, having 
a high old time. 

" Stevens said he never said a word, just 



THE MAN WHO RODE AWAY 241 

watched the guy on the running board, and 
planned to crack him on the head with an empty 
beer bottle when they got on the straight road 
and were hitting up a good clip just playing, 
you understand. 

" After he'd watched the guy a while and was 
trying to fish up a beer bottle from the bottom 
of the car, the chauffeur slowed down and hol- 
lered back to him on the back seat that he 
wanted to stop and look at his radiator it 
was about to blow up, too hot. He'd been 
burning the dust on that stretch of good 
road. 

" When he slowed down, the guy on the run- 
ning board slipped off. Stevens says he rolled 
down a bank." 

The jubilant Mr. Crown stopped, for 
breath. 

"That's all right, far as it goes," Hastings 
said ; " but does he identify that man as Rus- 
sell? " , 

" To the last hair on his head ! " replied the 
sheriff. u Stevens' description of the fellow is 
Russell all over all over! Just to show you 
how good it is, take this: Stevens describe the 
clothes Russell wore, and says what Otis said: 
he'd lost his hat." 

" Stevens got a good look at him? " 

" Says the headlights were full on him as 



242 "NO CLUE!" 

he stood on one side of the road, there on Hub 
Hill, waiting to slide on the running board. 
And this Stevens is a shrewd guy, the York 
chief says. I guess his story plugs Russell's lies, 
shoots that alibi so full of holes it makes a sifter 
look like a piece of sheet-iron! 

" That car went up Hub Hill at seven minutes 
past eleven that means Russell had plenty of 
time to kill the girl after the rain stopped and 
to get out on the road and slip on to that run- 
ning board. And the car slowed up, where he 
rolled off the running board, at eighteen min- 
utes past eleven. 

" Time's right, location's right, identification's 
right! Pretty sweet, ain't it, old fellow? Con- 
gratulate me, don't you? Congratulate me, even 
if it does step on all those mysterious theories 
of yours that right? " 

Hastings bestowed the desired felicitations 
upon the exuberant conqueror of crime. 

Turning from the telephone, he gazed a long 
time at the piece of grey envelope on the table 
before him. He had clung to his belief that, 
in those fragments of words, was to be found 
a clue to the solution of the mystery. He picked 
up his knife and fell to whittling. 

Outside in the street a newsboy set up an 
abrupt, blaring din, shouting sensational head- 
lines: 



THE MAN WHO EODE AWAY 243 

"SLOANEHURST MYSTERY SOLVED! 
RUSSELL THE MURDERER ! ALIBI A 
FAKE!" 

The old man considered grimly, the various 
effects of this development in the case Lucille 
Sloane's unbounded relief mingled with censure 
of him for having added to her fears, and es- 
pecially for having subjected her to the ordeal 
of last night's experience with Mrs. Brace the 
adverse criticism from both press and public be- 
cause of his refusal to join in the first attacks 
upon Russell, Arthur Sloane's complacency at 
never having treated him with common courtesy. 

His thoughts went to Mrs. Brace and her 
blackmail schemes, as he had interpreted or sus- 
pected them. 

" If I'd had a little more time," he reflected, 
" I might have put my hand on " 

His eyes rested on the envelope flap. His 
mind flashed to another and new idea. His 
muscles stiffened ; he put his hands on the arms 
of his chair and slowly lifted himself up, the 
knife dropping from his fingers and clattering 
on the floor. He stood erect and held both hands 
aloft, a gesture of wide and growing wonder. 

"Gripes!" he said aloud. 

He picked up the grey paper with a hand that 
trembled. His pendent cheeks puffed out like 
those of a man blowing a horn. He stared at 



244 "NO CLUE!" 

the paper again, before restoring it to its en- 
velope, which he put back into one of his pockets. 

" Gripes ! " he said again. " It's a place! Pur- 
suit! That's where the " 

He became a whirlwind of action, covered the 
floor with springy step. Taking a book of colos- 
sal size from a shelf, he whirled the pages, run- 
ning his finger down a column while he mur- 
mured, " Pursuit^-P-u-r P-u P-u " 

But there was no such name in the postal di- 
rectory. He went back to older directories. He 
began to worry. Was there no such postoffice 
as Pursuit? He went to other books, whirling 
the pages, running down column after col- 
umn. And at last he got the information he 
sought. 

Consulting a railroad folder, he found a train 
schedule that caused him to look at his watch. 

"Twenty-five minutes," he figured. " I'm go- 
ing!" 

He telephoned for a cab. 

Then, seating himself at the table, he tore a 
sheet from a scratch-pad and wrote: 

"Don't lose sight of Mrs. Brace. Disregard 
Russell's arrest. 

" Hendricks : the Sloanehurst people are mem- 
bers of the Arlington Golf Club. Get a look at 
golf bags there. Did one, or two, contain piece 
or pieces of a bed-slat? 



THE MAN WHO RODE AWAY 245 

"Gore: check up on Mrs. B.'s use of money. 

" I'll be back Sunday." 

He sealed the envelope into which he put that, 
and, addressing it to Hendricks, left it lying on 
the table. 

At the station he bought the afternoon news- 
papers and turned to Eugene Russell's state- 
ment, made to the reporters immediately after 
his arrest. It ran: 

" I repeat that I'm innocent of the murder. 
Of course, I made a mistake in omitting all 
mention of my having ridden the first four miles 
from Sloanehurst. But, being innocent and 
knowing the weight of the circumstantial evi- 
dence against me, I could not resist the tempta- 
tion to make my alibi good. I neither com- 
mitted that murder nor witnessed it. The story 
I told at the inquest of what happened to me 
and what I did at Sloanehurst stands. It is the 
truth." 



XIX 

" PURSUIT ! " 

RETURNING from his trip Sunday morn* 
ing, the detective, after a brief conference 
with Hendricks, had gone immediately to 
Mrs. Brace's apartment. She sat now, still and 
watchful, on the armless rocker by the window, 
waiting for him to disclose the object of his 
visit. Except the lifted, faintly interrogating 
eyebrows, there was nothing in her face indica- 
tive of what she thought. 

He caught himself comparing her to a statue, 
forever seated on the low-backed, uncomfortable 
chair, awaiting without emotion or alteration 
of feature the outcome of her evil scheming. 
Her hardness gave him the impression of some- 
thing hammered on, beaten into an ugly pattern. 

Having that imperturbability to overcome, he 
struck his first blow with surprising directness. 

" I'm just back from Pursuit," he said. 

That was the first speech by either of them 
since the monosyllabic greeting at the door. He 
saw that she had prepared herself for such an 
announcement; but the way she took it re- 

246 



"PUKSUIT!" 247 

minded him of a door shaken by the impact of 
a terrific blow. A little shiver, for all her force 
of repression, moved her from head to foot. 

" You are? " she responded, her voice con- 
trolled, the hard face untouched by the shock 
to which her body had responded. 

" Yes ; I got back half an hour ago, and, ex- 
cept for one of my assistants, you're the first 
person I've seen." When that drew no comment 
from her, he added : " I want you to remember 
that later on." 

He began to whittle. 

" Why? " she asked with genuine curiosity, 
after a pause. 

" Because it may be well for you to know that 
I'm dealing with you alone, and fairly. I got 
all the facts concerning you/' 

" Concerning me? " Her tone intimated 
doubt. 

" Now, Mrs. Brace ! " he exclaimed, disapprov- 
ing her apparent intention. " You're surely not 
going to pretend ignorance or innocence ! " 

She crossed her knees, and, putting her left 
forearm across her body, rested her right elbow 
in that hand. She began to rock very gently, 
her posture causing her to lean forward and 
giving her a look of continual but polite ques- 
tioning. 

" If you want to talk to me," she said, her 



248 " NO CLUE ! " 

voice free of all feeling, " you'll have to tell me 
what it's about." 

" All right; I will," he returned. " You'll re- 
member, I take it, my asking you to tell me the 
meaning of the marks on the flap of the grey 
envelope. I'll admit I was slow, criminally slow, 
in coming to the conclusion that * Pursuit ! ' re- 
ferred to a place rather than an act. But I got 
it finally and I found Pursuit not much left 
of it now ; it's not even a postoffice. 

" But it's discoverable," he continued on a 
sterner note, and began to shave long, slender 
chips from his block of wood. " I'll give you 
the high lights: young Dalton was killed his 
murderer made a run for it but you, a young 
widow then, in whose presence the thing was 
done, smoothed matters out. You swore it was 
a matter of self-defence. The result was that, 
after a few half-hearted attempts to locate the 
fugitive, the pursuit was given up." 

" Very well. But why bring that story here 
now? What's its significance? " 

He stared at her in amazement. Her thin, 
sensitive lips were drawn back at the corners, 
enough to make her mouth look a trifle wider 
and enough to suggest dimly that their motion 
was the start of a vindictive grimace. Other- 
wise, she was unmoved, unresponsive to the open 
threat of what he had said. 



"PURSUIT!" 249 

" Let me finish," he retorted. " An unfortu- 
nate feature, for you, was that you seemed to 
have made money out of the tragedy. In strait- 
ened circumstances previously, you began to 
spend freely comparatively speaking a few 
days after the murderer's disappearance. In 
fact, bribery was hinted; you had to leave the 
village. See any significance in that? " he con- 
cluded, with irony. 

" Suppose you explain it," she said, still cool. 

" The significance is in the strengthening of 
the theory I've had throughout the whole week 
that's passed since your daughter was killed at 
Sloanehurst." 

" What's that? " 

She stopped rocking; her eyes played a fiery 
tattoo on every feature of his face. 

" Your daughter's death was the unexpected 
result of your attempts to blackmail young Dai- 
ton's murderer. You, being afraid of him, and 
not confessing that timidity to Mildred, per- 
suaded her to approach him in person." 

" I ! Afraid of him ! " she objected, aroused 
at last. 

Her brows were lowered, a heavy line above 
her furtive, swift eyes; her nostrils fluttered 
nervously. 

"Granting your absurd theory," she con- 
tinued, " why should I have feared him? What 



250 " NO CLUE ! " 

had he done except strike to save his own 
life? " 

" You forget, Mrs. Brace," he corrected. 
" That body showed twenty-nine wounds, twenty- 
eight of them unnecessary if the first was in- 
flicted in mere self-defence. It was horrible 
mutilation." 

" So ! " she ridiculed, with obvious effort. 
" You picture him as a butcher." 

" Precisely. And you, having seen to what 
lengths his murderous fury could take him, were 
afraid to face him even after your long, long 
search had located him again. Let's be sensible, 
Mrs. Brace. Let's give the facts of this business 
a hearing. 

" You had come to Washington and located 
him at last. But, after receiving several de- 
mands from you, he'd stopped reading your let- 
ters sent them back unopened. Consequently, 
in order for you to make an appointment with 
him, he had to be communicated with in a hand- 
writing he didn't know. Hence, your daugh- 
ter had to write the letter making that ap- 
pointment a week ago last night. Then, how- 
ever " 

"What makes you think " 

"Then, however," he concluded, overbearing 
her with his voice, "you hadn't the courage to 
face him out there, in the dark, alone. You 



"PUKSUIT!" 251 

persuaded Mildred to go in your place. And 
he killed her." 

"Ha!" The mocking exclamation sounded 
as though it had been pounded out of her by 
a blow upon her back. " What makes you say 
that? Where do you get that? Who put that 
into your head? " 

She volleyed those questions at him with in- 
describable rapidity, her lips drawn back from 
her teeth, her brows straining far up toward 
the line of her hair. The profound disgust with 
which he viewed her did not affect her. She 
darted to and fro in her mind, running about 
in the waste and tumult of her momentary con- 
fusion, seeking the best thing to say, the best 
policy to adopt, for her own ends. 

He had had time to determine that much when 
her gift of self-possession reasserted itself. She 
forced her lips back to their thin line, and 
steadied herself. He could see the vibrant taut- 
ness of her whole body, exemplified in the rigid- 
ity with which she held her crossed knees, one 
crushed upon the other. 

" I know, I think, what misled you," she an* 
swered her own question. " You've talked to 
Gene Russell, of course. He may have heard 
I think he did hear Mildred and me discussing 
the mailing of a letter that Friday night." 

"He did," Hastings said, firmly. 



252 "NO CLUE!" 

" But he couldn't have heard anything to war- 
rant your theory, Mr. Hastings. I merely made 
fun of her wavering after she'd once said she'd 
confront Berne Webster again with her appeal 
for fair play." 

He inspected her with an emotion that was 
a mingling of incredulity and repugnant won- 
der. 

" It's no use, Mrs. Brace," he told her. " Rus- 
sell didn't see the name of the man to whom the 
letter was addressed. I saw him last Sunday 
afternoon. He told me he took the name for 
granted, because Mildred had taunted him, say- 
ing it went to Webster. As a matter of fact, 
he wanted to see if Webster was at Sloanehurst 
and fastened his eyes for a fleeting glimpse on 
that word and on that alone. Besides, there 
are facts to prove that the letter did not go to 
Webster. Do you see how your fancied secur- 
ity falls away? " 

u Let me think," she said, her tone flat and 
impersonal. 

She was silent, her restless eyes gazing at 
the wall over his head. He watched her, and 
glanced only at intervals at the wood he was 
aimlessly shaving. 

" Of course," she said, after a while, looking 
at him with a speculative, deliberating air, 
"you've deduced and pieced this together. 



"PURSUIT!" 253 

You've a woman's intuition comprehension of 
motives, feelings." 

She was silent again. 

" Pieced what together? " he asked. 

" It's plain enough, isn't it? You began with 
your suspicion that my need of money was 
heavier in my mind than grief at Mildred's 
death. On that, you built up well, all you've 
just said." 

" It was mote than a suspicion," he corrected. 
" It was knowledge that everything you did, 
after her death, was intended to help along your 
scheme to we'll say, to get money." 

" Still," she persisted shrewdly, " you felt the 
necessity of proving I'd blackmail if that's the 
word you want to use." 

"How?" he put in quickly. "Prove it, 
how?" 

" That's why you sent that girl here with the 
five hundred. I see it now; although, at the 
time, I didn't." She laughed, a short, bitter 
note. " Perhaps, the money, or my need of it, 
kept me from thinking straight." 

" Well? " 

" Of course," she made the admission calmly, 
" as soon as I took the hush money, your theory 
seemed sound the whole of it : my motives and 
identity of the murderer." 

She was thinking with a concentration so in- 



254 "NO CLUE!" 

tense that the signs of it resembled physical ex- 
ertion. Moisture beaded the upper part of her 
forehead. He could see the muscles of her face 
respond to the locking of her jaws. 

" But there's nothing against me," she began 
again, and, moved by his expression, qualified: 
" nothing that I can be held for, in the 
courts." 

" You've decided that, have you? " 
You'll admit it," she said. " There's noth- 
ing there can be nothing to disprove my state- 
ment that Dalton's death was provoked. I hold 
the key to that I alone. That being true, I 
couldn't be prosecuted in Pursuit as ' accessory 
after the fact.' " 

" Yes," he agreed. That's true." 
" And here," she concluded, without a hint of 
triumph, even without a special show of interest, 
" I can't be proceeded against for blackmail. 
That money, from both of them, was a gift. I 
hadn't asked for it, much less demanded it. I," 
she said with an assured arrogance, "hadn't got 
that far. So, you see, Mr. Hastings, I'm far 
from frightened." 

He found nothing to say to that shameless 
but unassailable declaration. Also, he was 
aware that she entertained, and sought solution 
of, a problem, the question of how best to satisfy 
her implacable determination to make the man 



"PURSUIT!" 255 

pay. That purpose occupied all her mind, now 
that her money greed was frustrated. 

It was on this that he had calculated. It ex- 
plained his going to her before confronting the 
murderer. He had felt certain that her per- 
verted desire to " get even " would force her 
into the strange position of helping him. 

He broke the silence with a careful attempt 
to guide her thoughts: 

" But don't fool yourself, Mrs. Brace. You've 
got out of this all you'll ever get, financially 
every cent. And you're in an unpleasant sit- 
uation an outcast, perhaps. People don't 
stand for your line of stuff, your behav- 
iour." 

She did not resent that. Making a desperate 
mental search for the best way to serve her 
hard self-interest, he thought, she was imper- 
vious to insult. 

" I know," she said, to his immense relief. 
" I've been considering the only remaining 
point." 

"What's that?" 

" The sure way to make him suffer as hor- 
ribly as possible." 

He pretended absorption in his carving. 

"Why shouldn't he have provided me with 
money when I asked it? " she demanded, at 
last. 



256 "NO CLUE!" 

The new quality of her speech brought his 
head up with a jerk. Instead of colourless 
harshness, it had a warm fury. It was not that 
she spoke loudly or on a high key; but it had 
an unbridled, self-indulgent sound. He got the 
impression that she put off all censorship from 
either her feeling or her expression. 

" That wasn't much to ask as long as he con- 
tinued his life of ease, of luxury, of safety as 
long as I left out of consideration the debt he 
couldn't pay, the debt that was impossible of 
payment." 

Alien as the thing seemed in connection with 
her, he grasped it. She thought that she had 
once loved the man. 

"The matter of personal feeling?" he 
asked. 

"Yes. When he left Pursuit, he destroyed 
the better part of me what you would call the 
good part." 

She said that without sentimentalism, with- 
out making it a plea for sympathy ; she had bet- 
ter sense, he saw, than to imagine that she could 
arouse sympathy on that ground. 

" And," she continued, with intense malignity, 
" what was so monstrous in my asking him for 
money? I asked him for no payment of what 
he really owes me. That's a debt he can't pay ! 
My beauty, destroyed, withered and covered over 



"PURSUIT!" 257 

with the hard mask of the features you see now ; 
my capacity for happiness, dead, swallowed up 
in my long, long devotion to my purpose to find 
him again those things, man as you are, you 
realize are beyond the scope of payment or re- 
payment ! " 

Without rising to a standing position, she 
leaned so far forward that her weight was all 
on her feet, and, although her figure retained 
the posture of one seated on a chair, she was 
in fact independent of support from it, and 
held herself crouching in front of him, 
taut, a tremor in her limbs because of the 
strain. 

Her hands were held out toward him, the tips 
of her stiffened, half-closed fingers less than a 
foot from his face. Her brows were drawn so 
high that the skin of her forehead twitched, as 
if pulled upward by another's hand. It was 
with difficulty that he compelled himself to wit- 
ness the climax of her rage. Only his need of 
what she knew kept him still. 

" Money ! " she said, her lean arms in con- 
tinual motion before him. " You're right, there. 
I wanted money. I made up my mind I'd have 
it. It was such a purpose of mine, so strongly 
grown into my whole being, that even Mildred's 
death couldn't lessen or dislodge it. And there 
was more than the want of money in my never 



258 "NO CLUE!" 

letting loose of my intention to find him. He 
couldn't strip me bare and get away! You've 
understood me pretty well. You know it was 
written, on the books, that he and I should come 
together again no matter how far he went, or 
how cleverly! 

" And I see now ! " she gave him her decision, 
and, as she did so, rose to an upright position, 
her hands at her sides going half-shut and open, 
half-shut and open, as if she made mental pic- 
tures of the closing in of her long pursuit. " I'll 
say what you want me to say. Confront him ; 
put me face to face with him, and I'll say the 
letter went to him. Oh, never fear! I'll say 
the appropriate thing, and the convincing thing 
appropriately convincing ! " 

Her eyes glittered, countering his searching 
glance, as she stood over him, her body flung 
a little forward from the waist, her arms 
busy with their quick, angular gesticula- 
tion. 

"When?" he asked. "When will you do 
that? " 

"Now," she answered instantly. "Now! 
" Now! Oh, don't look surprised. I've thought 
of this possibility. My God ! " she said with a 
bitterness that startled him. "I've thought of 
every possibility, every possible crook and quirk 
of this business." 



" PURSUIT ! " 259 

She was struck by his slowness in responding 
to her offer. 

" But you," she asked ; " are you sure have 
you the proof?" 

"Thanks," he said drily. "You needn't be 
uneasy about that. Now, if I may do a little tel- 
ephoning, we'll start." 

He went a step from her and turned 
back. 

" By the way," he stipulated, " that little mat- 
ter of the five hundred you needn't refer to it. 
I mean it will have to be left out. It's not neces- 
sary." 

" No; it isn't," she agreed, with perfect indif- 
ference. "And it's spent." 

When he had telephoned to Sloanehurst and 
the sheriff's office, he found her with her hat 
on, ready to accompany him. 

As they stepped out of the Walman, she saw 
the automobile waiting for them. She stopped, 
a new rage darting from her eyes. He thought 
she would go back. After a brief hesitation, 
however, she gave a short, ugly laugh. 

" You were as sure as that, were you ! " she 
belittled herself. "Had the car wait to take 
me there ! " 

" By no means," he denied. " I hoped you'd 
go that's all." 

"That's better," she said, determined to as- 



260 "NO CLUE!" 

sert her individuality of action. " You're not 
forcing me into this, you know. I'm doing it, 
after thinking it out to the last detail for my 
own satisfaction." 



XX 

DENIAL OP THE CHARGB 

HASTINGS, fully appreciating the value 
of surprise, had instructed Mrs. Brace 
to communicate none of the new devel- 
opments to anybody until he asked for them. 
Reaching Sloanehurst, he went alone to the 
library, leaving her in the parlour to battle as 
best she might with the sheriff's anxious curi- 
osity. 

Arthur Sloane and Judge Wilton gave him 
cool welcome, parading for his benefit an obvious 
and insolent boredom. Although uninvited to 
sit down, he caught up a chair and swung it 
lightly into such position that, when he seated 
himself, he faced them across the table. He 
was smiling, enough to indicate a general sat- 
isfaction with the world. 

There was in his bearing, however, that which 
carried them back to their midnight session with 
him immediately following the discovery of Mil- 
dred Brace's body. The smile did not lessen 
his look of unquestionable power; his words 
were sharp, clipped-off. 

261 



262 "NO CLUE!" 

" I take it," he said briskly, untouched by 
their demeanour of indifference, "you gentle- 
men will be interested in the fact that I've 
cleared up this mystery." 

" Ah-h-h ! " drawled Sloane. " Again? " 

" What do you mean by ' again '? " he asked, 
good-naturedly. 

" Crown, the sheriff, accomplished it four days 
ago, I'm credibly informed." 

" He made a mistake." 

"Ah?" Sloane ridiculed. 

" Yes. ' Ah ! ' " Hastings took him up curtly, 
and, with a quick turn of his head, addressed 
himself to Wilton: "Judge, I've been to Pur- 
suit." 

When he said that, his head was thrown back 
so that he squinted at Wilton down the line of 
his nose, under the rims of his spectacles. 

"Pursuit!" 

Wilton's echo of the word was explosive. He 
had been leaning back in his chair, eying the 
detective from under lowered lids, and drawing 
deep, prolonged puffs from his cigar. But, with 
the response to Hastings' announcement, he sat 
up and leaned forward, putting his elbows on 
the rim of the table. It was an awkward atti- 
tude, compelling him to extend his neck and 
turn his face upward in order to meet the other's 
glance. 



DENIAL OP THE CHARGE 263 

" Yes," Hastings said, after a measurable 
pause. "Interested in that?" 

" Not at all," Wilton replied, plainly alarmed, 
and fubbed out his cigar with forefinger and 
thumb, oblivious to the fact that he dropped a 
little shower of fire on the table cover. 

" I'll trouble you to observe, Mr. Sloane," 
Hastings put in, " that, being excited, the 
judge's first impulse is to extinguish his cigar: 
it's a habit of his. Now, judge, in Pursuit I 
heard a lot about you a lot." 

"All right what?" 

He made the inquiry reluctantly, as if under 
compulsion of the detective's glance. 

" The Dalton case and your part in it." 

" You know about that, do you? " 

" All about it," Hastings said, in a way that 
made doubt impossible; Sloane, even, bewildered 
as he was, got the impression of his ruthless 
certainty. 

Wilton did not contest it. 

" I struck in self-defence," he excused himself 
wearily, like a man taking up a task against his 
will. " It would be ridiculous to call that mur- 
der. No jury would have convicted me none 
would now, if given the truth." 

" But the body showed twenty-nine wounds," 
Hastings pressed him, "the marks of twenty- 
nine separate thrusts of that knife." 



264 "NO CLUE!" 

"Yes; that's true. Yes, I'll tell you about 
that, you and Arthur if you'd care to hear? " 

"That's what I'm here for," Hastings said, 
settling in his chair. He was thinking : " He 
didn't expect this. He's unprepared ! " 

Sloane, who had been on the point of resent- 
ing this unbelievable attack on his friend, was 
struck dumb by Wilton's calm acknowledg- 
ment of the charge. From long habit, he took 
the cap off the smelling-salts with which he 
had been toying when Hastings came in, but 
his shaking hand could not lift the bottle to his 
nose. Wilton guilty of a murder, years ago! 
He drew a long, shuddering breath and huddled 
in his chair. 

Wilton rose clumsily and walked heavily to 
the door opening into the hall. He put his hand 
on the knob but did not turn it. He repeated 
the performance at the door opening into 
Sloane's room. In all this he was unconsciona- 
bly slow, moving in the manner of a blind man, 
feeling his way about and fumbling both knobs. 

When he came back to the table, his shoulders 
were hunched to the front and downward, 
crowding his chest. His face looked larger, each 
separate feature of it throbbing coarsely to the 
pumping of his heart. Pink threads stood out 
on the white of his eyeballs. When the back 
of his neck pressed against his collar, the effect 



DENIAL OF THE CHARGE 265 

was to give the lower half of the back of his 
head an odd appearance of inflation or puffi- 



Hastings had never seen a man struggle so 
to contain himself. 

" Suffering angels ! " Sloane sympathized 
shrilly. " What's the matter, Tom? " 

"All right it's all right," he assured, his 
voice still low, but so resonant and harsh that 
it sounded like the thrumming of a viol string. 

He seated himself, moving his chair several 
times, adjusting it to a proper angle to the table. 
In the end, he sat close to the table rim, hunched 
heavily on his elbows, and looked straight at 
Hastings. 

" But, since you've been to Pursuit, what do 
you imply, or say? " he asked, the words scrap- 
ing, as though his throat had been roughened 
with a file. 

"That you killed Mildred Brace," Hastings 
answered, also leaning forward, to give the accu- 
sation weight. 

"I! I killed her! " Wilton's teeth went to- 
gether with a sharp click ; the table sagged under 
his weight. " I deny it. I deny it ! " He ripped 
out an oath. " This man's crazy, Arthur! He's 
dragged up a mistake, a tragedy, of my youth, 
and now has the effrontery to use it as a reason 
for suspecting me of murder ! " 



266 "NO CLUE!" 

" Exactly ! " chimed Sloane, in tremulous re- 
lief. " Shivering saints ! Why haven't you said 
so long ago, Tom?" 

" I didn't give him credit for the wild insan- 
ity he's showing," said Wilton thickly. 

Whatever had been his first impulse, however 
near he had been to trying to explain away all 
blame in the Dalton murder, it was clear to 
Hastings now that he intended to rely on flat 
denial of his connection with the death of Mil- 
dred Brace. He had, perhaps, decided that ex- 
planation was too difficult. 

Seeing his indecision, Hastings turned on 
Sloane. 

" You've been exceedingly offensive to me on 
several occasions, Mr. Sloane. And I've had 
enough of it. Now, I've got the facts to show 
that you're as foolish in the selection of your 
friends as in making enemies. I'm about to 
charge this man Wilton with murder. He killed 
Mildred Brace, and I can prove it. If you want 
to hear the facts back of this mystery; if you 
want the stuff that will enable you to decide 
whether you'll stand by him or against him, you 
can have it ! " 

Before Sloane could recover from his surprise 
at the old man's hot resentment, Wilton said, 
with an air of careless contempt: 

"Oh, we've got to deal with what he says, 



DENIAL OF THE CHARGE 267 

Arthur. I'd rather answer it here than with an 
audience." 

" The reading public, for instance? " Hastings 
retorted, and added : " It may interest you, Mr. 
Sloane, to know that you gave me my first sus- 
picion of him. When you stepped back from 
the handkerchief I held out to you remember, 
as I was kneeling over the body, and the servant 
laughed at you? I jammed it into Wilton's 
right-hand coat-pocket. 

" Later, when I got it back from him, I saw 
clinging to it a few cigar ashes and two small 
particles of wet tobacco. He had had in that 
pocket a cigar stump wet from his saliva. 

11 When he began then his story of finding the 
body, he said, ' I'd been smoking my good-night 
cigar; this is what's left of it.' As he said that, 
he pointed to the unlit remember that, unlit 
cigar stump between his teeth. He made it a 
point to emphasize the fact that so little time 
had elapsed between his finding the body and 
his giving the alarm that he hadn't smoked up 
the cigar, and also he hadn't taken time to put 
his hand to his mouth, take out the cigar and 
throw it away. 

" It was one of the over-fine little touches that 
a guilty man tries to pile on his scheme for 
appearing innocent. But what are the facts? 

" Just now, as soon as he got excited, he me- 



268 "NO CLUE!" 

chanically fubbed out his cigar. It's a habit of 
his whenever he's in a close corner. He did 
it during the interview I had with him and 
Webster in the music room last Sunday morning 
when, in fact, something dangerous to him 
came up. He did it again when I was talking 
to him in his office, following a visit from Mrs. 
Brace. 

" There you have the beginning of my sus- 
picion. Why had he gone out of his way to put 
a cigar stump into his pocket that night, and 
to explain that he had had it in his mouth all 
the time? When he came into my room, to wake 
me up, he had no cigar in his mouth. But, 
when you and I rounded the corner of the porch 
and first saw him kneeling over the body, he 
had one hand in his right-hand coat-pocket. 
And, when we stood beside him, he had put a 
half-smoked, unlit cigar into his mouth. 

" You see my point, clearly? Instead of hav- 
ing had the cigar in his mouth and having kept 
it there while he found the body and reported 
the discovery to us, the truth is this: he had 
fubbed out the cigar when he met Mildred Brace 
on the lawn, and it had occurred to his calculat- 
ing mind that it would be well, when he chose 
to give the alarm, to use the cigar stunt as evi- 
dence that he hadn't been engaged in quarrelling 
with and murdering a woman. 



DENIAL OF THE CHARGE 269 

" He was right in his opinion that the average 
man doesn't go on calmly smoking while en- 
gaged in such activities. He was wrong in let- 
ting us discover where he'd carried the stump 
until he needed it. 

" He had put it into that pocket, but, after 
committing the murder, he wasn't quite as calm 
as he'd expected to be something had gone 
wrong; Webster had appeared on the scene 
and the cigar wasn't restored to his mouth until 
you and I first reached the body. 

" Here's my handkerchief, showing the ashes 
and the pieces of cigar tobacco on it, just as 
it was when he handed it back to me." 

He took from one of his pockets a tissue-paper 
parcel, and, unwrapping it, handed it to Sloane. 

"Ah-h-h that's what it shows," Sloane ad- 
mitted, bending over the handkerchief. 

Wilton welcomed that with a laugh which he 
meant to be lightly contemptuous. 

" See here, Arthur! " he objected. " I'm per- 
fectly willing to listen to any sane statement 
this man may make, but " 

"You said you wanted to hear this!" Hast- 
ing stopped him. " I'm fair about it. I've told 
you why I began to watch you. I've got 
more." 

" You need it," Sloane complained. " If it's 
all that thin " 



270 "NO CLUE!" 

" Don't shout too soon," Hastings interrupted 
again. " Mr. Sloane, this man's been working 
against me from the start. Think a moment, 
and you'll realize it. While he was telling your 
daughter and a whole lot of other people that 
I was the only man to handle the case, he was 
slipping you the quiet instruction to avoid me, 
not to confide in me, not to tell me a single 
thing. Isn't that true?" 

" We-ell, he did say the best way for me to 
avoid all possibility of being involved in the 
thing was not to talk to anybody." 

" I knew it ! " Hastings declared, giving his 
contempt full play. "And he persuaded you 
that you might have seen might, mind you 
and he gave you the suggestion skilfully, more 
by indirection than by flat statement that you 
might have seen Berne Webster out there on the 
lawn that night, when you were uncertain, when 
you feared it yourself a little. Isn't that 
true? " 

Sloane looked at him with widening eyes, his 
lips trembling. 

"Come, Mr. Sloane! Let's play fair, didn't 
he?" 

"We-ell, yes." 

"And," Hastings continued, thumping the 
table with a heavy hand to drive home the points 
of his statement, "he persuaded you to offer 



DENIAL OF THE CHAKGE 271 

that money to Mrs. Brace last Tuesday night. 
Didn't he? And that matches his slippery 
cunning in pretending he was saving Webster 
by hiding the fact that Webster's hand had 
gagged him when they found the body. He fig- 
ured his willingness to help somebody else would 
keep suspicion away from him. I " 

" Kot! All rot! " Wilton broke in. " Where 
do you think you are, Arthur, on the witness 
stand? He'll have you saying white's black in 
a minute." 

" Mr. Sloane," the detective said, getting to 
his feet, " he induced you to pay money to Mrs. 
Brace while it's the colour of blackmail, it 
won't be a matter for prosecution; you gave it 
to her, in a sense, unsolicited but he induced 
you to do that because he knew she was out 
for blackmail. He hoped that, if you bought 
her off, she wouldn't pursue him farther." 

" Farther ! " echoed Sloane. " What do you 
mean by that?" 

"Why, man! Don't you see? Money was 
back of all that tragedy. He murdered the girl 
because she had come here to renew her mother's 
attempts at blackmail on him! Not content 
with duping you, with handling you as if you'd 
been a baby, he put you up to buying off the 
woman who was after him and he did it by 
fooling you into thinking that you were sav- 



272 " NO CLUE ! " 

ing the name, if not the very life, of your daugh- 
ter's fiance"! He " 

"Lies! Wild lie!" thundered Wilton, push- 
ing back from the table. " I'm through 
with " 

" No ! No ! " shrilled Sloane. " Wait ! Prove 
that, Hastings! Prove it if you can! Shud- 
dering saints! Have I ?" 

He looked once at Wilton's contorted face, 
and recoiled, the movement confessing at last 
his lack of faith in the man. 

" I will," Hastings answered him, and moved 
toward the door ; " I'll prove it by the girl's 
mother." 

He threw open the door, and, sure now of 
holding Sloane's attention, went in search of 
Mrs. Brace and the sheriff. 



XXI 

" AMPLE EVIDENCE " 

THE two men in the library waited a long 
time for his return. Wilton, elbows on 
the table, stared straight in front of him, 
giving no sign of knowledge of the other's pres- 
ence. Sloane fidgeted with the smelling-salts, 
emitting now and then long-drawn, tremulous 
eighs that were his own special vocabulary of 
dissatisfaction. He spoke once. 

"Mute and cringing martyrs!" he said, in 
suspicious remonstrance. " If he'd say some- 
thing we could deny ! So far, Tom, you're mixed 
up in 

"Why can't you wait until he's through?" 
Wilton objected roughly. 

They heard people coming down the hall. 
Lucille, following Mrs. Brace into the room, 
went to her father. They could see, from her 
look of grieved wonder, that Hastings had told 
her of the charge against Wilton. The sheriff's 
expression confirmed the supposition. His 
mouth hung open, so that the unsteady fingers 
with which he plucked at his knuckle like chin 

273 



274 "NO CLUE!" 

appeared also to support his fallen jaw. He 
made a weak-kneed progress from the door to 
a chair near the screened fireplace. 

For a full half-minute Hastings was silent, 
as if to let the doubts and suspense of each 
member of the group emphasize his dominance 
of the situation. He reviewed swiftly some of 
'the little things he had used to build up in his 
own mind the certainty of Wilton's guilt: the 
man's agitation in the music room at the dis- 
covery, not that a part of the grey envelope had 
been found, but that it contained some of the 
words of the letter his obvious alarm when 
found quarrelling with Mrs. Brace in his office 
his hardly controlled impulses: once, outside 
Sloane's bedroom, to accuse Berne Webster with- 
out proof, and, on the Sloanehurst porch last 
Sunday, to suggest that Sloane was guilty. 

The detective observed now that he absolutely 
ignored Mrs. Brace, not even looking in her 
direction. He perceived also how she reacted 
to that assumed indifference. The tightening 
of her lips, the flutter of her mobile nostrils, 
left him no longer any doubt that she was in 
the mood to give him the cooperation she had 
so bitterly promised. 

" To be dragged down by such a woman ! " he 
thought. 

" Mrs. Brace," he said, " I've charged Judge 



"AMPLE EVIDENCE" 275 

Wilton with the murder of your daughter. I 
say now he killed her, with premeditation, hav- 
ing planned it after receiving a letter from her." 

" Yes? "she responded, a certain tenseness in 
her voice. 

She had gone to a chair by th^ window; and, 
like the sheriff, she faced the tn at the table: 
Wilton, Sloane, and Lucille, who stood behind 
her father, a hand on his shoulder. 

Hastings slowly paced the floor as he talked, 
his hands clasped behind him and now and then 
moving the tail of his coat up and down. He 
glanced at Mrs. Brace over the rims of his spec- 
tacles, his eyes shrewd and keen. He showed 
an unmistakable self-satisfaction, like the ela- 
tion Wilton had detected in his bearing on two 
former occasions. 

" Now," he asked her, " what can you tell us 
about that letter? " 

Wilton, his chest pressed so hard against the 
edge of the table that his breathing moved his 
body, turned his swollen face upon her at last, 
his eyes flaming under the thatch of his down- 
drawn brows. 

Mrs. Brace, her high-shouldered, lean frame 
silhouetted against the window, began, in a col- 
ourless, unemotioned tone: 

" As you know, Mr. Hastings, I thought this 
man Wilton owed me money, more than money. 



276 "NO CLUE!" 

I'd looked for him for twenty-six years. Less 
than a year ago I located him here in Virginia, 
and I came to Washington. He refused my re- 
quests. Then, he stopped reading my letters 
sent them back unopened at first; later, he de- 
stroyed them unread, I suppose." 

She cleared her throat lightly, and spoke more 
rapidly. The intensity of her hate, in spite of 
her power of suppression, held them in a dis- 
agreeable fascination. 

" I was afraid of him, afraid to confront him 
alone. I'd seen him kill a man. But I was in 
desperate need. I thought, if my daughter could 
talk to him, he would be brought to do the right 
thing. I suppose," she said with a wintry smile, 
"you'd call it an attempt to blackmail if he 
had let it go far enough. 

" She wrote him a letter, on grey paper, and 
sent it, in an oblong, grey envelope, to him 
here at Sloanehurst last Friday night. He got 
it Saturday afternoon. If he hadn't received 
it, he'd never have been out on the lawn with 
a dagger he'd made for the occasion at eleven 
or eleven-fifteen, which was the time Mildred 
said in her letter she'd see him there. She had 
added that, if he did not keep the appointment, 
she'd expose him his crime in Pursuit." 

" I see," Hastings said, on the end of her cold, 
metallic utterance, and took from his pocket the 



"AMPLE EVIDENCE" 277 

flap of grey envelope. " Is this the flap of that 
envelope; or, better still, are these fragments 
of words and the word * Pursuit ' in your 
daughter's handwriting? " 

" I've examined them already," she said. 
" They are my daughter's writing." 

Her lips were suddenly thick, taking on that 
appearance of abnormal wetness which had so 
revolted him before. 

" And I say what you've just said ! " she sup- 
plemented, her eyebrows high upon her fore- 
head. " Tom Wilton killed my daughter. And, 
when I went to his office I was sure then that 
he'd be afraid to harm me so soon after Mil- 
dred's death I accused him of the murder. He 
took it with a laugh. He said I could look at 
it as a warning that " 

"Wait!" 

The interruption came from Wilton. 

" I'm going to make a statement about this 
thing ! " he ground out, his voice coarse and 
rasping. 

Hastings hung upon him with relentless 
gaze. 

" What have you got to say? " 

" Much ! " returned Wilton. " I'm not going 
to let myself be ruined on this charge because 
of a mistake of my youth mistake, I say! I'm 
about to tell you the story of such suffering, such 



278 "NO CLUE!" 

misfortune, as no man has ever had to endure. 
It explains that tragedy in Pursuit; it explains 
my life; it explains everything. I didn't mur- 
der that boy Dalton. I struck in self-defence. 
But the twenty -nine wounds on his body " 

He paused, preoccupied ; he was thinking less 
of his hearers than of himself. It was at that 
point, Hastings thought afterwards, that he be- 
gan to lose himself in the ugly enjoyment of 
describing his cruelty. It was as if the horrors 
to which he gave voice subjected him to a spe- 
cious and irresistible charm, equipped him with 
a spurious courage, a sincere indifference to 
common opinion. 

" There is," he said, " a shadow on my soul. 
My greatest enemy is hidden in my own 
mind. 

"But I've fought it, fought it all my life. 
You may say the makeshifts I've adopted, the 
strategy of my resistance, my tactics to outwit 
this thing, do me little credit. I shall leave it 
to you to decide. Results speak for themselves. 
I have broken no law ; there is against me noth- 
ing that would bring upon me the penalty of 
man's laws." 

He wedged himself more closely against the 
edge of the table, and struck his left palm with 
his clenched right hand. 

"I tell you, Hastings, to have fought this 



"AMPLE EVIDENCE" 279 

thing, in whatever way, has been a task that 
called for every ounce of strength I had. I've 
lived in hell and walked with devils, against my 
will. Not a day, not a night, have I been free 
of this curse, or my fear of it. There have been 
times when, every night for months, my slum- 
bers were broken or impossible! The devilish 
thing reached down into the depths of sleep and 
with its foul and muddy grasp poisoned even 
those clear, white pools clear and white for 
other men! But no matter 

" You've heard of obsessions of men seized 
every six months with an irresistible desire to 
drink of kleptomaniacs who, having all they 
need or wish, must steal or go mad of others 
driven by inexplicable impulse, mania, to set 
fire to buildings, for the thrill they get out of 
seeing the flames burst forth. Well, from my 
earliest childhood until that moment when Roy 
Dalton attacked me, I had fought an impulse 
even more terrible than those. God, what a 
tyranny! It drove me, drove me, that obses- 
sion, at times amounting to mental compul- 
sion, to strike, to stab, to make the blood 
flow!" 

He rose, getting to his feet slowly, so that his 
burly bulk gained in size, like the slow upheaval 
of a hillside. Swollen as his face had been, it 
expanded now a trifle more. His nostrils coars- 



280 "NO CLUE!" 

ened more perceptibly. The puffiness that had 
been in the back of his neck extended entirely 
around his throat. He hung forward over the 
table, giving all his attention to Hastings, who 
was unmoved, incredulous. 

" The Brace woman will tell you I had to kill 
him," he proceeded more swiftly, displaying a 
questionable ardour, like a man foreseeing de- 
feat. " The mistake I made was in running 
away a bitter mistake! But those unnecessary 
wounds, twenty-eight that need not have been 
made! The obsession to see the blood flow drove 
me to acts which a jury, I thought, would not 
understand. And, if you don't see the force of 
my explanation, Hastings, if you don't under- 
stand, I shall be in little better plight after 
all these years ! " 

He put, there, a sorrowful appeal into his 
voice; but a sly contradiction of it showed 
faintly in his face, a hint that he took a 
crafty pleasure in dragging into the light 
the depravity he had kept in darkness for a 
lifetime. 

" I got away. I drifted to Virginia, working 
hard, studying much. I became a lawyer. But 
always I had that affliction to combat; all my 
life, man ! always ! There were periods months 
long when devils came up from the ugly cor- 
ners of my soul to torture and tempt me. 



"AMPLE EVIDENCE" 281 

" It wasn't the ordinary temptation, not a 
weak, pale idea of 'I'd like to kill and see the 
blood ! ' but an uproar, an imperial voice, an 
endless command: 'Kill! Draw blood! Kill!' 
What it did to me 

"But to this day I've beaten it! I've been 
a good citizen. I've observed the law. I've re- 
fused to let that involuntary lust for blood ruin 
me or cast me out. 

"Let me tell you how. I decided that, if I 
had a hand in awarding just punishments, my 
affliction would be abated enough for me to live 
in some measure of security. There you have 
the explanation of my being on the bench. I 
cheated the obsession to murder by helping to 
imprison or execute those who did mur- 
der! 

" That's why I can tell you of my innocence 
of the Brace murder. Do you think I'd tell it 
unless I knew there could be not even an excuse 
for suspecting me? On the other hand, if I had 
kept silent as to the true motive that drove my 
hand to those unnecessary mutilations of young 
Dalton the only time, remember, that my weak- 
ness ever got the better, or the worse, of me! 
if I had kept silent on that, you would have had 
ground for suspecting me of a barbarous mur- 
der then, and, arguing from that, of the Brace 
murder now. 



282 "NO CLUE!" 

" Do I make myself clear? Do you want me 
to go into further detail?" 

He sank slowly back to his chair, spent by 
the strain of supreme effort. His breathing was 
laboured, stertorous. 

"That, Crown," Hastings denounced, "is a 
confession! Knowing he's caught, he's got the 
insolence to whine for mercy because of his 
* sufferings ' ! Think of it ! The thing of which 
he boasts is the thing for which he deserves 
death since death is supposed to be the su- 
preme punishment. He tells us, in self-congrat- 
ulatory terms, that he curbed his inhuman long- 
ings, satisfied his lust for blood, by going on 
the bench and helping to ' punish those who did 
murder ! ' 

"Too cowardly to strike a blow, he skulked 
behind the protection of his position. He made 
of the judicial robe an assassin's disguise. On 
the bench, he was free to sate his thirst for 
others' sufferings adding to a sentence five un- 
deserved years here, ten there; slipping into his 
instructions to juries a phrase that would mean 
the death penalty ! 

" He revelled in judicial murders. He gloated 
over the helpless people who, looking to him 
for justice, were merely the victims of his ab- 
horrent cruelty. He loved the look of sick sur- 
prise in their starting eyes. He got a filthy joy 



"AMPLE EVIDENCE" 283 

out of seeing a man turn pale. He rubbed his 
hands in glee when a woman swooned. 
He" 

"I can't stand that can't stand it!" Sloane 
protested, hands over his eyes. 

" What more do you want, to prove his guilt, 
his abominable guilt? " Hastings swept on. 
" You have the motive, hatred of this woman 
here and her daughter you have the proof of 
the letter sent to him making the compulsory 
appointment you have his own crazy explana- 
tion of his homicidal impulse, from which, by 
the way, he never sought relief, a queer i im- 
pulse' since it gave him time, hours, to plan 
the crime and manufacture the weapon with 
which he killed ! " 

" I said at the start," Wilton put in hoarsely, 
" this man Hastings was only theorizing. If he 
had anything to connect me with " 

" I have ! " Hastings told him, and came to 
a standstill in front of the sheriff, bending over 
him, as if to drive each statement into Crown's 
reluctant mind. 

" He got that letter a little after five in the 
afternoon. He left me here, in this room, with 
Sloane and Webster, and was gone three-quar- 
ters of an hour. That was just before dinner. 
He had the second floor, on that side of the house, 
entirely to himself. He took a nail-file from 



284 NO CLUE ! " 

Webster's dressing case, and in Webster's room 
put a sharper point on it by filing it roughly 
with the file-blade of his own pen knife. 

" That's doubly proved : first, my magnet, with 
which I went over the floor in Webster's room, 
picked up small particles of steel. Here they 
are." 

He produced a small packet and, without un- 
wrapping it, handed it to Crown. 

" Again : you'll find that the file-blade of his 
knife retained particles of the steel in the little 
furrows of its corrugated surface. I know, be- 
cause last Sunday, as your car came up the 
drive-way, I borrowed his knife, on the pretext 
of tightening a screw in the blade of mine. And 
I examined it." 

He put up a silencing hand as Wilton forced 
a jeering laugh. 

" But there's more to prove his manufacture 
and ownership of the weapon that killed the 
woman. He made the handle from the end of 
a slat on the bed in the room which I occupied 
that night. The inference is obvious: he didn't 
care to risk going outside the house to hunt for 
the wood he needed; he wouldn't take it from 
an easily visible place ; and, having stolen some- 
thing from one room, he paid his attention to 
mine. All this is the supercaution of the so- 
called 'smart criminal.' It matches the risk 



"AMPLE EVIDENCE" 285 

he took in returning to the body to hunt for the 
weapon. That was why he was there when Web- 
ster found the body. 

" The handle of the dagger matches the wood 
of the slat I've just mentioned. You won't find 
that particular slat upstairs now. It was taken 
out of the house the next day, broken into sec- 
tions and packed in his bag of golf-sticks. But 
there is proof in this room of the fact that he 
and he only made the dagger. 

" You'll find in the edge of the large blade of 
his penknife a nick, triangular in shape, which 
left an unmistakable groove in the wood every 
time he cut into it. That little groove shows, 
to the naked eye, on the end of the shortened 
slat and on the handle of the dagger. If you 
doubt it " 

"Thunder!" Crown interrupted, in an awed 
tone. "You're right!" 

He had taken the dagger from his pocket and 
given it minute scrutiny. He handed it now to 
Sloane. 

Wilton, watching the scene with flaming eyes, 
sat motionless, his chin thrust down hard upon 
his collar, his face shining as if it had been 
polished with a cloth. 

Sloane gave the dagger back to Crown before 
he spoke, in a wheezy, shrill key : " They're there, 
the marks, the grooves ! " 



286 "NO CLUE!" 

He did not look at Wilton. 

Hastings straightened to his full stature, and 
looked toward Wilton. 

"Now, Judge Wilton," he challenged, "you 
said you preferred to answer the accusation here 
and now. Do you, still? " 

Wilton, slowly raising the heavy lids of his 
eyes, like a man coming out of a trance, pre- 
sented to him and to the others a face which, 
in spite of its flushed and swollen aspect, looked 
singularly bleak. 

" It's not an accusation," he said in his rough- 
ened, grating voice. " It's a network of suppo- 
sitions, of theories, of impossibilities a crazy 
structure, all built on the rotten foundation of 
a previous misfortune." 

" Arrest him, Crown ! " Hastings commanded 
sharply. 

Wilton tried to laugh, but his heavy lips 
merely worked in a crazy barrenness of sound. 
With a vague, clumsy idea of covering up his 
confusion, he started to light a cigar. 

Hq stopped, hands in mid-air, when Crown, 
shambling to his feet, said: 

"Judge, I've got to act. He's proved his 
case." 

" Proved it ! " Wilton made weak protest. 

" If he hasn't, let's see your penknife." 

Wilton put his hand into his trousers pocket, 



"AMPLE EVIDENCE" 287 

began the motion that would have drawn out 
the knife, checked it, and withdrew his hand 
empty. He managed a mirthless, dreary laugh, 
a rattling sound that fell, dead of any feeling, 
from his grimacing lips. 

"No, by God!" he refused. "I'll give it to 
neither of you. I don't have to ! " 

In that moment, he fell to pieces. With his 
thick shoulders dropping forward, he became 
an inert mass bundled against the table edge. 
The blood went out of his face, so that his cheeks 
hollowed, and shadows formed under his eyes. 
He was like the victim of a quick consumption. 

Crown's eyes were on Hastings. 

" That's enough," the old man said shortly. 

" Too much," agreed Crown. " Judge, there's 
no bail on a murder charge." 

" I'm very glad," Mrs. Brace commented, a 
terrible satisfaction in her voice. " He pays me 
at last." 

In the music room Dr. Garnet had just given 
Lucille and Hastings a favourable report on 
Berne Webster's condition. 

" I should so like to tell him," she said, her 
glance entreating; "if you'll let me! Wouldn't 
he get well much faster if he knew it knew the 
suspense was all over that neither he nor 
father's suspected any more? " 



288 " NO CLUE ! " 

"I think," the doctor gave his opinion with 
exaggerated deliberation, " it might in fact, it 
really will be his best medicine." 

She thanked him, stars swimming in her 
eyes. 



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